CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Expect the ball to be in the air a lot during Thursday’s first Class 3-A semifinal at the UNI-Dome.
No quarterbacks in the class have completed more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than No. 5 Sioux City Heelan’s Trent Solsma and No. 2 Grinnell’s Eli Dunne.
The juniors lead two of 3-A’s most potent offenses into what could be a shootout.
Crusader coach Roger Jansen said Dunne is “about as good as I’ve seen.” The son of Tiger coach Jim Dunne has thrown for a class-best 2,857 yards and 26 touchdowns with three picks.
In addition, Bryce Lidtka has rushed for 975 yards and 24 touchdowns while Joe Nowasell has amassed 941 receiving yards and 12 scores for Grinnell.
“We’ve got our hands full, that’s for sure,” Jansen said.
Heelan’s defense has five shutouts this season and has held four other opponents to 15 points or less. It ranks second in 3-A behind Decorah in points allowed.
Jansen would like to lighten its load in the 5:36 p.m. contest by playing keep-away.
Solsma, who has thrown for a school-record 2,719 yards and 33 touchdowns, is the trigger man for an offense that runs a lot of four- and five-receiver sets. Jansen said he’d like to use a short passing game while mixing in the run to limit Dunne’s opportunities.
“We’ve got to put drives together,” the Heelan coach said. “We’ve got to run clock. We’ve got to take care of the football. We’ve got to keep their offense off the field as much as possible because they’re just so explosive.”
The Crusaders (11-1) are making their fourth appearance in the semifinals in the past six years. Grinnell (12-0) hasn’t been this far since 2006, though it won its second-round playoff game against Clear Lake at the UNI-Dome.