Doniphan-Trumbull making its first appearance in a football championship game certainly isn’t surprising.
The Cardinals (12-0) have been ranked No. 1 in Class C-2 for most of this season.
Doniphan-Trumbull has had only two opponents stay within 11 points. Its average margin of victory is 41-12.
Aquinas may be the most unsurprising surprise team to appear in this year’s state finals.
The Monarchs (10-2) weren’t ranked entering the postseason and were only the sixth seed among the 16 teams in the east bracket.
But Aquinas is the two-time defending state champions and should give the Cardinals all they can handle when Tuesday’s title tilt kicks off at 2:45 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Count Doniphan-Trumbull coach Brent Breckner among those not shocked to see Aquinas going for a three-peat.
“Every year you expect them to be in the finals,” he said. “I was talking after last year’s state championship and said that’s a team I’d expect to play if we could make it. They have a quality program and are well-coached.”
During its run to Lincoln, Aquinas avenged both of its regular-season losses to Fremont Bergan and Malcolm.
The Monarchs have outscored their opponents by an average of 35-10.
Matt Jakub leads Aquinas’ offense with 867 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Zach Krenk has added 756 yards and nine scores while Alex Reimers has chipped in 615 yards and six TDs.
Quarterback Trev Semrad has completed 50 of 98 passes for 758 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Krenk’s total of 103 tackles tops a Monarchs defense that allows 209 yards of offense per game.
“(Aquinas’ strengths) are the same thing year in and year out,” Breckner said. “They have a great defense and they run the ball well.”
Doniphan-Trumbull’s defense has turned into a big strength this year. The Cardinals allow 212 yards of offense per game.
In their semifinal last week, Battle Creek tied the game at 14 late in the first quarter but didn’t score again until the final minute of the game.
“We’re pretty confident, but we understand there is one more game and we need to learn some new things for this game,” Breckner said of his defense.
Linebacker Jake Critel leads the Cardinals with 75 solo and 28 assisted tackles. Creighton Buhr has added 58 unassisted and 22 assisted stops.
Then there’s the Doniphan-Trumbull offense, which has lived up to high expectations.
Senior running back Jordan Slough has rushed for 1,969 yards and 30 touchdowns, including a C-2-record 13 total touchdowns during the playoffs. He also leads the Cardinals in receiving with 470 yards and six scores.
Riley Wiltfong is 85-for-172 passing for 1,609 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Buhr is tied with Slough for the team lead with 20 catches. He has 388 yards and six touchdowns, including two last week against Battle Creek.
Doniphan-Trumbull’s offense has been tough to stop this season unless it has stopped itself.
“Turnovers and penalties are the things that really stop this offense,” Breckner said. “When we play like we should, it makes it difficult on defenses. But when we make mistakes executing or with penalties, we stop ourselves.”