Complacency is a common word heard around Western Dubuque football practice. As in, the disease of complacency.
Don’t expect the Iowa Class 3A No. 1-ranked Bobcats (6-0, 2-0 3A District 4) to feel complacent this week. Not with defending state champion and No. 2-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier (6-0, 2-0) coming to Buchman Field tonight.
“That’s kind of been our motto all year. (Avoiding) complacency,” said WD quarterback Calvin Harris, who is one of only four quarterbacks state-wide to throw 10 or more touchdown passes without an interception this season. “We just want to come out and get better every single day, every single drill, every single rep. That’s a big focus for us.”
Xavier downed the Bobcats, 34-20, in last season’s 3A title game in the UNI-Dome. Harris, who has thrown for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, missed part of the championship game after suffering a concussion, and is one of several players to return from that game. The Saints had won the regular-season meeting, 35-0.
That alone provides enough motivation for WD to avoid complacency.
“Our guys hurt real bad after that state title game,” Bobcats coach Justin Penner said. “We had a great season and we wanted to celebrate that, but the pain of coming in second place is something that doesn’t leave you.
“Our guys have wanted Xavier for a long time now and I think our practice this week has really been focused in preparation for them.”
Both teams have posted similar resumes over the first six games of the season.
Xavier is averaging 35 points per game and has outscored its last two opponents, 94-20. The Saints are allowing 7.6 points per game defensively and have posted three shutouts. Xavier is coming off a 42-0 victory at Dubuque Wahlert.
Western Dubuque has a slightly better scoring average on both sides of the ball, averaging 35.8 points on offense and 6.5 on defense. The Bobcats have outscored their last two opponents, 81-14. WD has kept its opponent out of the end zone in three games this season, including a 21-3 victory over then-No. 3-ranked North Scott in Week 3.
“It helps working as a unit. We do our own jobs,” WD cornerback Collin Hogan said. “You don’t worry about someone else, you just be you. That’s what we’ve got to do. That’s what we’ve been focusing on. You read your gaps, you make your tackles, you stop them.”
The Bobcats have surrendered just 19 combined points in their last three games. Xavier hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game since Davenport Assumption scored 21 on Nov. 3, 2017. Since then, only Western Dubuque and Maquoketa have been able to score 20 points against the Saints.
“I would suspect it’s going to be a defensive battle just based on how difficult it is to score on them,” Penner said. “If we’re going to beat them, we’re going to have to play really good defense, take advantage of short-field situations and get solid special teams play. But they aren’t going to give us anything for sure.”
Jack Lux has run for 418 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Xavier offense. Tyler Dupont has thrown for 957 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Dupont has also run for 255 yards and six scores.
Four different Saints have caught at least two touchdowns passes.
Jake Hosch leads Western Dubuque with 410 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Ben Bryant has added 295 yards and three TDs, and also has 11 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Will Burds has become Harris’ top target, hauling in 28 passes for 545 yards and nine TDs.
“They’re going to play an awful lot of man defense, so we’re going to have to take advantage of matchups and try to create some matchups,” Penner said. “We’re going to have to be patient trying to run the ball against a loaded box, so we’re going to have to be creative in the way we can get in a rhythm and routine offensively.”