By John Burbridge firstname.lastname@example.org
CEDAR FALLS — If Zach Ott wasn’t 300-pounds and as quick as a cat and as strong as an ox, he might be a member of Rockford’s cheerleading squad.
He sure puts a lot of effort into trying to fire up the Warrior faithful during football games.
Ott prompted a decent reaction late in the first quarter of Thursday’s Class 8-Player semifinal pitting Rockford against the then-undefeated Southeast Warren Warhawks when he returned a fumble 25-yards to help extend the Warriors’ lead to 16-7.
“I never scored a touchdown in high school,” said Ott, who took advantage of teammate Matthew Muller jarring the ball loose from Warhawk ball carrier Alex Hommer, giving the sophomore a chance to “take it to the house” himself after a season of helping pave the way for others to reach paydirt.
“It felt awesome … that’s why I spread my arms out like I was on the Titanic,” Ott said while referencing the Leo DiCaprio “I’m the king of the world!” movie scene on the bow of the ship.
The play in essence helped sink the Warhawks’ ship as the Warriors rode that wave on way to completing a 44-0 run, prompting a running clock for a hastened 52-19 final which advances Rockford to the Class 8-Player title game next Thursday.
Rockford (11-1) will face New London (11-1), which defeated Freemont-Mills in overtime (60-54) in the subsequent semifinal at the UNI-Dome, which also hosts all football class championships.
Southeast Warren scored first with a 2-yard run by Hommer, set up by a long Colby Page pass to Cade Nelson.
But Rockford responded on the ensuing possession when Warrior quarterback Jacob Staudt hit Kaden Lyman in the flat before Lyman shed a tackler for a 32-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Lyman added the 2-point conversion run to put Rockford up, 8-7, just ahead of Ott’s defensive score.
“He’s very fast for his size,” Rockford head coach Torian Wolf said of Ott’s near-five-second 40 dash. “He wouldn’t have been able to score that touchdown if he wasn’t fast.”
Staudt would go on to throw three more TD passes on the day — a 31- and 27-yarder to Dillon Schriever, and a 14-yarder to John Fullerton. Really, Staudt should have been credited with what would have been a fifth TD pass at the end of one of the game’s highlights that could rival Ott’s score.
After scrambling back-and-forth like Fran Tarkenton to avoid swarming Warhawks with 2 minutes left in the first half, Staudt threw back against the grain to find an open Fullerton just inside the end zone. Fullerton made the catch on his knees still inside the end zone, but the ball was ruled down just outside the goal line though the replay on the UNI-Dome video board indicated touchdown.
No worries. The next play Lyman scored the second of his two touchdowns.
In addition to his four TD passes, Staudt also scored a 3-yard TD run.
Staudt now has 29 rushing and receiving touchdowns, 18 passing touchdowns, nearly 2,000 yards rushing, well over 1,000 yards passing … not bad for a guy who didn’t know he was going to be the Warriors’ starting quarterback going into his senior year.
“There was a lot of competition during the off-season … we have a lot of talented guys on this team,” Staudt said. “Torian told me I needed to get stronger and put in more work in the weight room. It has helped.”
Going into the season with a 23-game losing streak, it may have taken the Warriors more time than most other teams of similar prowess to get the respect they deserve in their first year back to Class 8-Player. Rockford has now beaten four-straight teams ranked in the Top 10 according to the last Associated Press Poll, including two-time defending state champion Don Bosco, but the team never once broke into the Top 10 itself aside from garnering a few votes early in the regular season and at the end.
But Wolf is not complaining.
“We’re still embracing that underdog role,” he said. “Some people might have taken notice of what we’ve done so far this season, but we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Kickoff for the Class 8-Player championship game Nov. 16 is 10 a.m.
Class 8-Player Semifinal
SOUTHEAST WARREN 19
Scoring By Quarters
ROCKFORD 16 22 6 8 — 52
SOUTHEAST WARREN 7 0 6 6 — 19
SEW — Alex Hommer 2-yard run (Kaleb Bauer kick), 5:38 1st
R — Kaden Lyman 32-yard pass from Jacob Staudt (Lyman run), 2:27 1st
R — Zach Ott 25-yard fumble return (Staudt run), 2:00 1st
R — Jacob Staudt 3-yard run (Dillon Schriever run), 10:11 2nd
R — Schriever 31-yard pass from Staudt (Run failed), 7:35 2nd
R — Lyman 1-yard run (Staudt run), 1:53 2nd
R — John Fullerton 14-yard pass from Staudt (Run failed), 7:03 3rd
SEW — Bauer 8-yard pass from Colby Page (Run failed), 1:04 3rd
R — Schriever 27-yard pass from Staudt (Pass failed), 10:51 4th
SEW — Cade Nelson 14-yard pass from Page (Kick failed), 4:13 4th