Playoff Edition, 3A Championship: Union Faces Familiar Foe in Final

By Cheyne Reiter

As the saying goes..."It's not how you start, but how you finish."

In this case, both Union and Decorah faced off in week one of the regular season with the Knights snatching away a come-from-behind victory, 20-17. The two meet again this Saturday on the grand stage of Iowa High School Football; the state finals in the UNI-Dome.

To get to this point, it hasn't been an easy road for either squad.

Decorah began the season with a record of 0-1, losing a heartbreaker at Union. The Vikings rebounded with four consecutive victories, highlighted by a 27-7 victory over the Oelwein Huskies. A tough matchup vs. West Delaware in week six followed, with the Vikings coming out on the short end of the stick, 38-21. Little did they know, that would be their last loss pending Saturday's result.

The Vikings have reeled off seven straight wins since that Sept. 30 loss. A 27-13 victory over Waverly-Shell Rock propelled Decorah into the No. 2 seed of 3A District 4.

Decorah's four playoff opponents included: Boone (5-4), No. 2 ranked Clear Lake (10-0), a rematch with No. 9 West Delaware (10-1), and Harlan (9-3). Decorah won those games 30-17, 24-8, 24-14, and 35-14, respectively.

Tradition and experience are two keys Union Head Coach Joe Hadachek mentioned about Decorah.

"They expect to win," said Coach Hadachek. "They are well-coached and fundamentally sound."

Decorah features a fierce rushing attack led by JR RB Josey Jewell. He has accumulated 1408 yards on 173 attempts, good for an 8.1 average. Throw in 16 touchdowns and you have a big-play-waiting-to-happen halfback.

Coach Hadachek said the gameplan was pretty simple. "To win this football game, we have to shut down Jewell."

The 20-17 victory for Union in week one was only a sample size of what's to come Saturday. A lot has changed since these teams last faced off, mainly due to injuries.

Brad Gallup and Kyle Ansley missed the season opener, and Trev Hadachek was still the quarterback. Jay Scheel made his first varsity start at receiver, but was hidden in the shadows of playmakers Wes Burnside, Hadachek, and Hunter Zempel. Zempel suffered a season-ending week three elbow injury and Hadachek separated his shoulder in week four. Scheel took over the reins at QB and has flourished with an 8-1 overall record at the helm since. Hadachek has been Scheel's main target down field, and Burnside keeps churning out 150+ yard efforts. Coach Hadachek knows the Knights have some valuable weapons on offense.

"We're still trying to improve before Saturday, but to be honest, we had a great offensive practice today (Thursday)," said Hadachek.

For Union, it'll be their first appearance in the championship. This postseason has seen many firsts as the Knights reached their first ever quarterfinal and semifinal, but Trev Hadachek knows the road doesn't end here.

"We're going to have to play our best game of the season to beat them," said Hadachek. "Playing in the UNI-Dome is unreal, but we have to come ready to play again on Saturday."

The Knights postseason has been unreal up to this point, and a championship would be the icing on the cake to an improbable run.

This past Monday, the Knights played exceptionally well in their 42-28 win over ADM-Adel.

How about an encore?