CEDAR FALLS, Ia. — Helmets flew, players scattered and somewhere in the middle of all the hysteria Friday, Adam Schleisman took off running in search of his father in the stands at the UNI-Dome.
Almost every morning during his team’s journey through the playoffs, the Carroll Kuemper junior listened to the same words from his dad: You never know when a game might come down to a field goal.
After more than three hours of lead changes, dazzling individual performances and drama, the Class 2-A state championship hinged on the leg of a guy attempting his third field goal of the season.
Schleisman booted a 39-yard field goal that caromed off the crossbar and bounced through as time expired, giving the top-ranked Knights a stunning 31-28 victory against No. 4 Waukon.
“Right when I kicked it I thought it had enough,” said Schleisman, whose previous long this season was 30 yards. “I kept watching it and watching it and all of a sudden (I hear a) ting and I look up and it goes in. That’s all I really remembered.”
Everything else was a blur for the Knights (14-0) during a wild celebration. When it ended, quarterback Cole Neary had lost his helmet and Carroll Kuemper’s first championship trophy was missing one of the football player figurines.
“A couple people wanted to grab it and someone must’ve been ripping at the little side guy and it just snapped,” Carroll Kuemper star Alex Drees said. “But I’ll take a broken trophy over no trophy any day.”
Drees made it all possible with one of the best individual performances in title game history. He caught five passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns and tied a 41-year-old all-class championship record with four interceptions.
His biggest pick came in the closing minute when he intercepted Parker Hesse’s bomb downfield and ran it back 43 yards to the Waukon 31 with 8 seconds remaining.
“I should’ve thrown that one away at the end of our last drive and I’m going to take responsibility for that,” Hesse said. “I really just gave him a punt to return and it set them up for a field goal. But other than that, there weren’t too many plays (I’d like back).”
Hesse took over the game in stretches during the second half when Waukon (12-2) played without leading rusher Marcus Weymiller, who was sidelined after taking a shot in the back.
Hesse threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter, highlighted by an eight-second scramble across the field on fourth down before he heaved a 32-yard touchdown to Jacob Ronan. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback later accounted for all 90 yards during a 16-play drive that culminated with his 5-yard touchdown run that put the Indians ahead 28-21 with 5:11 to play.
Carroll Kuemper quickly countered and struck immediately after Ronan, who intercepted three passes, hobbled off the field for a play. Neary went deep to Drees on the next play for a 58-yard touchdown, the state-leading 21st touchdown catch for the 6-foot-4 receiver.
“He’s going to catch the ball all the time,” said Neary, who threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns.
“You throw it up to him and he’s going to get it. He has probably two or three inches over every cornerback we’re going to play, huge hands to catch the football with … and he’s going to go up and catch everything for us.”
Ronan, though, held his own in a daylong duel between the two. The 5-foot-10 cornerback stole an interception from Drees on a first-half jump ball before the Carroll Kuemper receiver wrestled a 23-yard touchdown away during a similar situation early in the fourth quarter.
“I haven’t faced a cornerback that feisty all year,” Drees said. “Not many people can rise up with me, but he did a terrific job of rising up. Cole placed a couple of those perfectly and I should’ve came down with them.”
Drees caught just about everything else for the Knights — everything except the piece that fell off the trophy.
“The words are still there,” Carroll Kuemper coach Chad Klein said. “We’re still OK. A little glue can fix that guy real quick.”
First downs: Waukon 20; Carroll Kuemper 13
Rushes-Yards Waukon 41-113; Carroll Kuemper 18-55
Passing: Waukon 223; Carroll Kuemper 289
Comp-Att-Int: Waukon 19-41-4; Carroll Kuemper 16-37-4
Return Yards: Waukon 73; Carroll Kuemper 42
Fumbles-Lost: Waukon 0-0; Carroll Kuemper 0-0
Penalties-Yards: Waukon 6-55; Carroll Kuemper 6-40
Waukon 0 7 14 7 — 28
Carroll Kuemper 7 7 0 17 — 31
CK–Irlbeck 9 pass from Neary (Niehaus kick)
W–Herman 25 pass from Hesse (Ewing kick)
CK–Hick 28 pass from Neary (Niehaus kick)
W–Lyons 19 pass from Hesse (Ewing kick)
W–Ronan 32 pass from Hesse (Ewing kick)
CK–Drees 23 pass fr. Neary (Niehaus kick)
W–Hesse 5 run (Ewing kick)
CK–Drees 58 pass (Niehaus kick)
CK–Schleisman 39 FG
Rushing– Waukon: Hesse 24-87, Weymiller 9-21; Carroll Kuemper: Neary 7-26, Weitl 5-16.
Passing– Waukon: Hesse 19-41-223-4; Carroll Kuemper: Neary 16-37-289-4.
Receiving–Waukon: Ronan 7-92, Ewing 4-46; Carroll Kuemper: Drees 5-137, Rupiper 3-67.