'Inside the Huddle' - Knights stun Decorah again, 21-14, to take 3A Championship

By Cheyne Reiter

Another game, another victory.

The Union Knights (12-2) won their first-ever state championship Saturday in another come-from-behind victory over the Decorah Vikings (11-3), 21-14.

In similar fashion to the week one game between these two powerhouses, the Knights jumped out to an early lead.

After holding the Vikings to a 3-and-out on their opening possession, the Knights took over and marched down the field. After being stopped at the Vikings 4-yard line, Brady Petersen nailed a 21-yard chip shot to give Union a 3-0 lead.

Union held Decorah on their next possession as well, and the Knights eventually capitalized with a 33-yard touchdown burst by Burnside. After running into a wall of his own linemen, Burnside scampered around the left edge and went untouched the rest of the way for the 10-0 advantage.

It looked like the rout was on.

Finally, the ground-and-pound game of Decorah found some holes.

The Vikings answered the Union score with an 80-yard scoring drive, capped off by a bruising 8-yard TD run by Josey Jewell. The Viking TD pulled them within three, 10-7.

Decorah found an answer on defense as well.

The Knights were unable to get playmakers Scheel and Hadachek much space. After a Shay Fehl interception at the Union 1-yard line ended a scoring-threat by Decorah, a rare Scheel mistake followed.

Throwing out of his own endzone, Scheel threw behind Hadachek who had a step on his defender deep down the middle. The pass was picked off and Decorah was back in business in Union territory.

However, the Union defense shut down the Vikings and got the ball back with just a few minutes remaining.

The high-powered Union offense was led by a heavy dose of Burnside and the scrambling-ability of Scheel as the two led Union down to the Decorah 19-yard line. With no timeouts, Union rushed their kicking unit onto the field, hoping to add three crucial points before halftime. The hurry-up field goal attempt from 36 yards out by Brady Petersen was good, firing up the Union sideline at both teams headed to the locker rooms with the score 13-7, in favor of the Knights.

All season long, Knights coaches have made the necessary adjustments and ultimately bury their opponents in the third quarter.

However, Decorah's playoff experience and tradition trumped the Knights in the third.

After another long drive by the Vikings, Josey Jewell added his second touchdown on a 10-yard carry. The successful PAT gave Decorah their first lead, 14-13.

Time and time again, the Decorah defense mustered any Knight chances of scoring, frustrating an offense averaging over 35 points per game.

With time ticking midway through the fourth quarter, the Knights big-play ability featured in all of their previous playoff wins, broke loose. Faced with a 1st-and-10 from the Vikings 36-yard line, Scheel faked to Burnside before unleashing a perfectly thrown ball to TE Brad Gallup who was five yards behind Decorah's last defender. The aerial strike gave Union a 19-14 lead.

A critical two-point conversion followed. Scheel bootlegged to his right and saw nothing but green turf to the goal line. Scheel used his speed to beat the Decorah defenders and gave Union a seven-point advantage, 21-14.

Needing a score, the Vikings offense stalled out and punted away to Union. The Knights bled the clock under three minutes and went for the dagger, trying to clinch their first state title.

On a 3rd-and-17 from their own 25-yard line, Scheel aired out a strike to Hadachek on a post-route. The Decorah defender made a spectacular diving play, swatting away the ball and Union's chances of ending any Decorah comeback.

A Union punt followed, and Reid Monroe made sure the Vikings would have to earn it.

With Decorah going for the block, Monroe launched a clutch, record-breaking 75-yard punt that skipped through the Decorah end zone.

For a predominantly rushing team, 80 yards to cover is very difficult, especially with the Knights expecting the pass.

Viking QB Blake Moen drove Decorah all the way to the Union 32-yard line, leaving fans on the edge of their seats.

Brenden Kuhn decided to clinch it.

Moen fired a pass to his right but overthrew his intended target. Instead, Kuhn caught the errant pass right in his breadbasket, and once again, Union was off to the races.

Kuhn returned the interception 61 yards before laying down to seal the Union victory.

On the Union sideline...pandemonium.

Coaches hugged, players celebrated, fans roared.

Game-MVP Wes Burnside led Union with 142 well-deserved yards on 24 carries and one touchdown. Scheel connected on 6-of-13 passes for 111 yards along with one touchdown and one interception. Gallup led the Knights with 80 yards on three catches, along with the game-winning 36-yard touchdown reception.

For the first time in 24 years, the Union Knights are Iowa football state champions.

In 1997, the 8-1 Knights didn't make the postseason because of a tie-breaker situation.

In 2009, the 8-2 Knights lost in their first ever second round playoff appearance.

Just a year ago, the 9-0 Knights were shocked in the first round.

In 2011, the Knights are champions, a year in which Union faced more adversity than ever before.

It's time to let it resonate throughout the state.

We are...UNION.