CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | It might not have shown up in the toughest eight-player district in the state, but it certainly did on the turf at the UNI-Dome.
Second-ranked Remsen St. Mary's defense physically dominated a Fremont-Mills team that came into its semifinal clash Thursday averaging 45 points a game. The Hawks held a team with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers to 66 total yards of rushing while picking off two passes and forcing a key fumble in a 51-6 throttling.
"We saw a running team and we can stop the run," Hawks Coach Ryan Hajek said. "Our defense has been underrated all year, and we play a tough schedule so we are going to give up points. Our defense may not look very good, but everybody we faced since week three on has been a great team.
"It is good to see how physical we are up front against a big offensive line on the other side of the ball."
"We stuck to our coach's game plan, stuck to our assignments and great things will happen," senior Carter Kuchel said. "We watch a lot of film, our team studies and we know what the other team is going to run when they snap the ball."
Remsen St. Mary's won the District 1 title that saw as many as five teams ranked in the top 10 at once this season.
The Hawks advance to the state title game for just the second time in school history Thursday at 10:06 a.m. where it will face defending state champion and top-ranked Don Bosco.
When the defense wasn't controlling the Knights' offense, Remsen St. Mary's running back Canaan Cox was busy showing off his complete game. The senior, who transferred in from North Carolina for his final season and will play at the University of South Dakota next fall, ran for 225 yards, scored four touchdowns, picked off two passes, scored a two-point conversion and kicked a PAT.
"It was fun man just fun to be out there," Cox said. "People like to say I am cocky, I know I am, but I believe I am a winner and I am surrounded by winners, everyone on my team is a winner. I am 100 percent sure our team is going to be taking this championship."
Fremont-Mills (9-3), which lost in the semifinals to Harris-Lake Park 35-21 a year ago, looked like it was poised to make a game of it early as Colton Hauschild picked off Hawks quarterback Derrick Schorg and returned it to the Hawk 15. Two running plays moved the ball down to the 3, but the hard-hitting St. Mary's defense forced Jaeger Powers to fumble the ball at the 1 and Kuchel scooped it up to give the defense its eighth takeaway in three postseason games.
"It was an unbelievable play ... huge right at the 1-yard line," said Hajek, who watched his team add two more interceptions after it came into the contest leading eight-player in picks. "That is what our guys do. They don't get down on a big play. They forget about it and come right back the next play and make a play."
Schorg made the turnover hurt as he hit Kenny Bohnenkamp on a 15-yard TD pass where he fought his way in the final five yards to make it 14-0 in the second quarter.
Cox scored on a 9-yard run to start the scoring in the second half before the Hawks used a little trickery as wide receiver Kuechel took a reverse handoff and threw a 73-yard strike to Bohnenkamp for a 44-0 lead in a game that had a running clock nearly all of the second half.
"That was amazing, I live for that," Kuchel said. "There was a guy over the top and a guy below him so I just had to put it in the middle of them."
Cox's biggest play came in the first half when he raced 70 yards to the end zone to make it 22-0, and followed that up with an interception of Knights quarterback Mason Vanatta and returned it 39 yards to the 1. One play later he was in the end zone for his second score and a 30-0 lead.
"I come into every game believing I am going to rush for 300 yards, eight touchdowns, that's my goal," Cox said. "It was a little disappointing, me personally, I wasn't able to get that kind of start. So it was just me persevering and trusting in my line know that something was going to open up and I was going to be able to take advantage of it.
"It felt great."
The Hawks had a chance to add one more touchdown before the break as Schorg hit Kuchel on a 33-yard pass on third-and-20 putting them at the Knight 3. Schorg would connect with Brody Ricke for the touchdown pass on the next play but an illegal formation call brought the ball back. Four straight incomplete passes ended the half.
Cox, who came into the game having rushed for 1,834 yards, added 123 more in the first half and brought his season total to 2,059 by the end of the game.
"It has been great and I am enjoying it a lot," said Cox, who added a 55-yard run for the only score of the fourth quarter. "I really didn't see me getting 2,000 yards in eight-man with the shorter field, but now that I am here it is great. A lot of credit goes to my O-line."
The Hawks overcame a 15-yard penalty on Cox to score on their first drive as Schorg hit Ricke on a 39-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-9 play to make it 6-0.
The Knights, held to 161 yards of total offense, broke up the shutout in the third quarter when Vanatta had a 22-yard TD run.
The Hawks (11-0) are in the playoffs for the eighth time in school history and first time since 2013. With the victory Hajek moves just one win away from joining his father, Ken, in leading teams to state championships. Ken coached Remsen St. Mary's to the eight-player title in 2004 when Ryan was the quarterback of that team.
A victory against Don Bosco, who beat Midland 80-12 in the first semifinal, would make Ken and Ryan just the second father-son duo in state history to both win state football titles. They would join Barry and Cory Brandt with the latter accomplishing the feat with last year's Class 2A state title winners from Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley.