CEDAR FALLS | Rockford’s football team set the tone before the opening kickoff. Southeast Warren took the field as the beginning of the game neared, but the Warriors remained in an energetic, jumping huddle on the sideline.

That passion and energy translated directly to the scoreboard, as Rockford overwhelmed the previously unbeaten Warhawks 52-19 to advance to the Class 8-Player state championship game.

“We didn’t wanna come out flat-footed,” quarterback Jacob Staudt said. “Back in the regular season, we came out flat-footed, and it didn’t turn out well for us … we did our best to energize each other. As a team, that really helps us gets us going.”

Staudt was effective through the air and on the ground, accounting for five Warriors' touchdowns.

Rockford (11-1), which entered the season on a 23-game losing streak, fell behind 7-0 but rattled off 38 consecutive points in the first half, putting the game out of reach before the midway point.

One of the biggest momentum swings came in the first quarter.

After Rockford reached the end zone for the first time, Matt Muller forced a Southeast Warren (12-1) runner to fumble. Sophomore Zach Ott, who had a defensive touchdown called back in Rockford’s most recent game against Don Bosco, scooped it up and galloped toward the end zone. The touchdown gave the Warriors a 16-7 lead, their second score in a 1-minute span.

“I was like, “I’m gonna pick this up; I’m too tired to jump on it,’” Ott said. “I knew if I got on the ground, I was gonna get up very slow.”

The Warhawks might have been robbed of a scoring opportunity to end the first half. Quarterback Colby Paige scrambled in the backfield as the clock expired, looking for an open receiver. He found Cade Nelson in the back of the end zone for what looked like a touchdown, but an official signaled he was out of bounds. Regardless, Southeast Warren failed to reach the end zone much in the second half, only scoring on a pair of passing touchdowns.

Down 44-13 near the end of the third quarter, Southeast Warren intercepted a Staudt pass, but the Warriors recovered a fumble on the next play. A 23-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Schriever on the ensuing drive made the score 52-13, adding more insurance to the Warriors’ lofty lead.

Led by first-year coach Torian Wolf, Rockford’s victory puts the Warriors in Thursday’s state championship at 10 a.m. The Warriors will play New London, a 60-54 win over Fremont-Mills in the other semifinal Thursday.

Before this season, Rockford had never won a playoff game. Now, it's one week away from a chance to claim a state title.

“Once we got out of the jitters and realized this was just another game, we can wear them down,” Wolf said. “We can find the weaknesses in their defense and their offense. We found out we were stronger out front, and we took advantage of that.”

Photos: Rockford vs. Southeast Warren

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Reach Sports Reporter Luke A. Garza at 641-421-0540 or follow him on Twitter @LukeAGarza


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