CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | The West Sioux football team will go for its first state title Thursday.
Preparation for the game that got the Falcons there began well before that, in fact, well before the season began.
Fifth-ranked St. Albert (10-2), which eliminated West Sioux in the quarterfinals last season 21-14, was no match for top-ranked West Sioux on either side of the ball in a 55-21 victory in a Class A semifinal at the UNI-Dome.
"All the way back to the Morningside camp we heard they were at the Morningside camp, we heard they had a great battle with Gehlen (last week)," West Sioux Coach Ryan Schwiesow said. "Great teams like that you always have to have a little bit of an eye on them. That was the case all year with us.
"When we got to this game I don't know how much film and preparation our coaches put in but it was hours and hours and hours, and you have to do that to prepare for a great team like them."
"We had it in our head that we were going to come out and hit hard and drive it at them," said West Sioux junior Chase Koopmans, who had nine receptions for 150 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns. "At the beginning of the year because they knocked us off we have just been talking about it. Each week we play game by game, but eventually we set down a goal we wanted to play these guys and we set our goal to make the championship and we are there."
The top-ranked Falcons (12-0) will play for the state title Thursday at 1:36 p.m. against No. 2 Hudson (12-0). The second-ranked Pirates beat ninth-ranked St. Ansgar 41-17 in the first semifinal.
Friday's rematch began with fireworks for both teams as St. Albert took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown when Kyle Barnes raced 82 yards to put his team up 7-0. However, the momentum was short-lived as West Sioux senior Jake Lynott took the St. Albert kickoff back 92 yards for a matching TD 27 seconds into the game.
"I think it took away all the jitters," Lynott said. "We knew we could score and we are as good as this team and we are in it. We just have to play our game."
From there it was all West Sioux as it raced to a 33-7 halftime advantage.
Lynott, who came into the semifinal contest having rushed for 425 yards and eight touchdowns in the two previous playoff games, ran for 185 yards on Friday. He has now run for 2,458 yards and 37 touchdowns during his senior season.
He had four touchdowns in this one, all coming in different ways. After the kickoff return, he threw for a touchdown, ran for one and returned a fumble for a score.
"It is a great feeling and my teammates really stepped up and everybody got opportunities," said Lynott, who scored his team's final TD on a 54-yard fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
One of the biggest plays in the game came in the final minute of a long first half. St. Albert quarterback and defensive back Kyle Barnes hit Lynott as he bobbled a pass coming across the middle. A flag was thrown and Barnes was ejected for targeting Lynott's head, and when St. Albert coach Kevin Culjat ran onto the field to argue he was also flagged, moving the ball from the 47 down to the 22.
West Sioux quarterback Hunter Dekkers made the penalties hurt even more when he hit Kade Lynott on the next play for the 22-yard scoring strike with 35 seconds left in the half. It was the second connection between the duo who also hit on a 9-yarder to put West Sioux up 14-0.
West Sioux proved to be too fast and too physical for St. Albert on both sides of the ball as Dekkers was 14 of 21 for 237 yards in the first half alone. The sophomore was 19 of 30 on the day for 286 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
"Hunter is a great quarterback and I give a lot of credit to our line because our line gives him an endless amount of time just to sit back and have time to throw," Koopmans said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder. "He has the ability to read the whole field and a lot of quarterbacks don't have that. It is amazing to have a quarterback like that and he is only a sophomore."
Defensively, West Sioux shut down St. Albert's rushing attack to just 97 yards and only allowed a couple of late fourth-quarter scores. St. Albert had just 289 total yards of offense.
"That is the name of the game for our defense because we are physical," Schwiesow said. "We blitz and we get after you. That is a great offensive team with weapons all over the place and for our defense to do what they did today is probably -- even though we put up 50 points today offensively -- out shadows our offense."
West Sioux's other score in the first half came with a little trickery as Jake Lynott took the snap and and threw across to tackle Michael Trageser for a 6-yard score.
West Sioux made sure there was no thought of a St. Albert comeback by going to Jake Lynott early and often on a 19-play drive that consumed 7 minutes, 16 seconds to open the second half that culminated in a Jason Topete 25-yard field goal to make it 36-7.
Lane Wright replaced Barnes at quarterback in the second half and hit a 85-yard TD pass to Andrew Hanafan who caught the ball only after Jake Lynott just missed intercepting the pass. Wright was 5 of 8 throwing the ball for 140 yards.
The first trip to the championship game comes after back-to-back losses in the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons for the Falcons.
"It is a lot of preparation and we have had guys before us put in a lot of work and been mentors," Jake Lynott said. "For the past two years it has been tough on us not making it. Making it here is the ultimate goal."