CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | The journey through a football season is a long one, but for Ryan Schwiesow the drive from the UNI-Dome back to Hawarden after his team's state semifinal victory may have been the most telling of all.
"We took the bus ride home and I don't think there was a really high high," he said. "We knew that St. Albert was a great team, but our kids are playing with a high level of confidence and we expected to beat them.
"I think the high will come if we win on Thursday. Our kids have been business like. When we went down there on the bus there was no screwing around or hijinx that normally high school kids have. They are just a mature group of kids that have good senior leadership and knew they had a job to do, and when they got done they realized they still had a job to do."
Top-ranked West Sioux (12-0) will take on No. 2 Hudson at 1:30 p.m. Thursday back at the UNI-Dome after avenging a quarterfinal loss to Council Bluffs St. Albert in the semifinals 55-21.
The Falcons have overwhelmed opponents to this point because a deep, talented roster of players that are high on skill and seem unimpressed by the hype surrounding their team.
Senior running back Jake Lynott is second in the state and leads Class A with 2,436 rushing yards, and came up with a key 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to immediately respond to St. Albert's own kick return to begin the state semifinal. However, Lynott's demeanor rarely seems to change regardless of what is happening on the field.
"We have so many kids like that and they are so grounded in what they have done and Jake is his own biggest critic," Schwiesow said. "He might run for 400 yards in a game and he will be reviewing the film from when he slipped and fell."
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Dekkers was impressive in the semifinal throwing for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Victor Hernandez and Chase Koopmans give the Falcons versatile weapons that force defenses into tough situations.
"All our kids expect to get better," Schwiesow said. "It is where we want to be because we are not going to get stopped if they stop just one person. We have a lot of weapons and it is pretty tough to prepare for."
By the numbers, Hudson would seem to be up to the task as it looks to deny the Falcons a title in their first trip ever to a state championship game.
"I don't think Hudson has got as much credit as they deserve because they have a really good defense and are very aggressive up front," Schwiesow said. "Honestly, I think it is the most aggressive team that we are going to face as far as what we have seen this year. West Hancock was pretty aggressive and pretty physical, but I think Hudson is even a little more physical.
"They are not a finesse team and they are going to come at you and they are going to bring the house and blitz. They will come out and try to establish those things that we have done and set the tone as far as the physicality is concerned."
The second-ranked Pirates (12-0) are giving up just 5.5 points a game while scoring at a clip of 45 a contest. The Falcons are even more high scoring at 57 points while yielding 9.6.
Hudson has the size advantage on the offensive line and will look to establish the run as it has all season long. Junior running back Christian Seres has 1,871 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns. Cameron Fulcher and Alec Staebell have also eclipsed 400 yards while quarterback Jacob Murray has thrown for 1,277 yards and 15 scores.
"They do a good job of running the ball and they do a good job of throwing the ball," Schwiesow said.
The Falcons coach expects an old-fashioned football game to decide the Class A champion and he likes the team he is bringing to the UNI-Dome.
"We are not going to shy away from the situation and we are going to get after them," he said. "I think our kids enjoy that type of thing, I think they enjoy being challenged. When a team comes out and punches you in the mouth, especially if they do a little talking after the play, we are not a big talking team, we are not a big jumping around team ... but if you come out and antagonize them a little bit they will get fired up.
"We are looking forward to somebody coming out and slapping us a little bit and getting us going."
Hudson pulled away from St. Ansgar in the second half of their semifinal 41-17 last Friday and is in the championship game for the fifth time in school history. The Pirates are looking for their first title 1994, their most recent trip to the championship game.
Schwiesow took some time this week to get the thoughts of one other coach before taking the field. His brother, Devin, is an assistant on the St. Ansgar coaching staff.
"He will help us out just like we would them," Schwiesow said.