COUNCIL BLUFFS — Council Bluffs St. Albert led nearly the entire night, then it was in a position to fall behind late.
The Class 1-A Falcons, however, pulled out a tight one against rival Lewis Central by driving 80 yards in the final 2:15 after a missed field-goal attempt. Tucker Culjat scored from inside the 1 with 9.5 seconds remaining to give St. Albert a hard-fought 35-28 win Friday at Titan Stadium.
Lewis Central had rallied from 14 points down to tie the game twice in the final period. Ryan Scheidle's interception at midfield with 6:04 to play then put the Titans in position to take a late lead.
Caleb Shudak's 43-yard field goal try with 2:15 to play sailed wide left. The Falcons went 80 yards on nine plays — all rushes — to escape with a road victory over its Class 3-A foe.
“That was just a phenomenal high school football game,” St. Albert coach Kevin Culjat said. “Those teams just battled ebb and flow, ebb and flow. ... It was just a battle of wills.”
Tucker Culjat, who ran for 175 yards on 31 carries, started the final drive with a 7-yard run. Jon Meyerring followed with a 31-yard dash into Titan territory with time winding down.
Culjat added another 18-yard run two plays later as St. Albert got into field-goal range. But three runs later, the Falcons were sitting inside the L.C. 1 with only seconds left on the clock.
The game-winning touchdown came on third down.
“Man, those are the moments you live for,” Tucker Culjat said. “Those two minutes felt like it lasted forever. I'm just so proud of my team. We came out and knew we had to go 80 yards. My team showed a lot of heart.”
St. Albert trailed only once on the night. The Falcons answered Lewis Central's opening touchdown, a 31-yard pass from Austin Simmons to Lincoln Rodenburg, with scores on its first two possessions.
Eric Johnson got behind the Titan defense along the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown catch from Culjat to tie it. Culjat capped the second series with a 1-yard sneak.
Lewis Central's defense tightened after that, holding St. Albert to nine yards on its next three possessions. A fumble at midfield by the Titans, however, gave the Falcons new life. Culjat threw to an open Johnson down the middle for a 50-yard TD on the next play to make it 21-7.
Simmons responded with a 69-yard scoring strike to Jake Rodgers four plays later for Lewis Central. The two connected from 28 yards out early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 21-all.
Ryan Hansen returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards to put St. Albert back on top. Simmons then threw his fourth touchdown pass, a 50-yarder to Kyle Larson, with 7:44 remaining to even it up again.
Mason Brinkman tipped Culjat's third-down pass on the next drive, leading to the interception. The Titans came away with no points after their series stalled at the Falcon 26.
St. Albert was just trying to get into field-goal range for Meyerring, who had missed one try earlier and had another blocked, on the final drive. Mason Beezley, who had 15 total tackles on defense, ran the ball to the Lewis Central 15 one play before Culjat moved it inside the 10.
It took only three rushes for the Falcons, who ran for 330 yards, to score from there.
“We've talked all year about if we were going to be a hurry-up team, we were going to be hurry-up all the time and it's going to pay off for us late,” coach Culjat said. “We just gutted it out.”
Simmons threw for 328 yards but was intercepted twice in the game. Rodgers made 12 catches for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Titans fell to 0-2.
“They just made more plays than us, I guess. Bottom line,” Lewis Central coach Jim Duggan said. “We just broke down in some places, didn't make enough plays and we lost the game.”
Council Bluffs St. Albert (2-0) ............................ 7 14 0 14—35
At CB Lewis Central (0-2) .................................. 7 7 0 14—28
LC: Lincoln Rodenburg 31 pass from Austin Simmons (Caleb Shudak kick)
SA: Eric Johnson 24 pass from Tucker Culjat (Jon Meyyering kick)
SA: Culjat 1 run (Meyerring kick)
SA: Johnson 50 pass from Culjat (Meyerring kick)
LC: Jake Rodgers 69 pass from Simmons (Shudak kick)
LC: Rodgers 28 pass from Simmons (Shudak kick)
SA: Ryan Hansen 97 kickoff return (Meyerring kick)
LC: Kyle Larson 50 pass from Simmons (Shudak kick)
SA: Culjat 1 run (Meyerring kick)
Rushing: SA, Culjat 31-175, Meyerring 17-100, Beezley 7-30, Johnson 6-25. LC, Simmons 17-69, George 8-19, Shudak 4-10, Scheidle 1-4.
Passing: SA, Culjat 9-19-1 108, Johnson 0-3-0 0, Miller 0-1-0. LC, Simmons 23-37-2 328.
Receiving: SA, Johnson 4-69, McBride 3-29, Meyerring 2-10. LC, Rodgers 12-181, Rodenburg 4-73, Shudak 4-12, Mi. Brinkman 2-12, Larson 1-50.