WAVERLY — A scheduling conflict with a wrestling tournament booked inside the UNI-Dome took away Cedar Falls’ home field advantage Friday night in the opening round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.

With a cool, stiff breeze howling across the back-up venue inside Wartburg College’s Walston-Hoover Stadium, No. 5 Cedar Falls turned to its defense during a 28-7 win over No. 8 Cedar Rapids Prairie.

The Tigers (9-1) scored their first three touchdowns after turnovers and picked up their first playoff victory since 2014, advancing to an intriguing rematch with a top-ranked Iowa City West team that won on a two-point conversion in overtime inside the UNI-Dome in Week 3.

“The biggest disappointment was the kids earned a home game,” Cedar Falls coach Brad Remmert said, addressing this contest on a neutral field. “I feel bad for them, but they handled it great. Wartburg did an awesome job of setting this thing up and was easy to work with. Our kids made the best out of it and we get a chance to move on to the next round.

“Once we got adjusted to what they (Prairie) were doing, I thought our kids on defense played a really good game.”

Despite running just three plays, Cedar Falls scored the lone points of the first quarter when Logan Wolf recorded an interception on third-and-long, stiff-armed a Prairie receiver, and followed blocks across the field to the far sideline for a 41-yard touchdown to give the Tigers an early spark.

“We practiced against their offense all week and we did a really good job preparing for them,” Wolf said. “When the opportunity came, I took it and made a play and had some great blocks all the way to the end zone.”

Prairie (8-2) quickly abandoned the pass under these unfavorable weather conditions and turned to its deceptive rushing attack. A Hawks team that controlled possession 15:26-8:34 in the opening half tied the game, 7-7, on a 16-play, 80-yard drive capped by a goal-line plunge from Keegan Simmons who finished with 27 rushes for 129 yards.

With Cedar Falls’ potent passing attack also neutralized, the Tigers’ got another big break late in the second quarter when a fumbled punt return was recovered by Rhett Smeins at the Prairie 35. Running back Sam Gary then took an option pitch 16 yards on a fourth-and-three play to the Prairie 12 before finding a big hole between his left guard and tackle for the 12-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Prairie threatened late in the opening half, but Cedar Falls’ Tate Johnson recorded an interception on his own 2-yard line to end the threat.

In the second half, Cedar Falls scored a third-quarter touchdown when Daequan Thomas recovered a fumble and ran it back two yards. Back-up running back Jackson Gilbert scored from two yards out in the fourth quarter as part of his 47-yard game.

“Without the passing game, we needed some of those scores,” Wolf said, addressing the points off turnovers. “Our defense played incredibly tonight. Everybody was making plays.”

Gary finished with 26 carries for 176 yards, running behind blockers that appeared to impose their will on the Hawks’ defense as the game progressed. He exited with an apparent shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter, but Remmert said he saw him smiling on the sideline and hopes that’s a good sign going forward.

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Cedar Falls’ Logan Wolf runs back an interception for a touchdown in the first half of Friday’s playoff win over Cedar Rapids Prairie in Waverly.

“We got it going there and got it more downhill north and south,” Remmert said, addressing the rushing attack. “Jace Rea did a good job of blocking from the fullback spot. I just thought we established the line of scrimmage in the second half and it showed in our ground game.”

Cedar Falls 28, Prairie 7

C.R. Prairie 0 7 0 0 — 7

Cedar Falls 7 7 7 7 — 28

CF — Logan Wolf 41 interception return (Matthew Cook kick)

CRP — Keegan Simmons 1 run (Jayce Smith kick)

CF — Sam Gary 12 run (Cook kick)

CF — Daequan Thomas 2 fumble return (Cook kick)

CF — Jackson Gilbert 2 run (Cook kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

CRP CF

First downs 11 15

Rushes-yards 45-156 42-225

Comp-att-int 1-14-3 3-11-2

Passing yards 39 25

Punts-avg 5-35.4 4-34.75

Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-1

Penalties-yards 4-30 4-25

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE — Keegan Simmons 27-129, Braxton Zimmerman 9-22, Jace Andregg 3-19, Izaak Lindgren 2-2, Dalton Rayner 2-minus 5.

CEDAR FALLS — Sam Gary 26-176, Jackson Gilbert 8-47, Logan Wolf 1-7, Jace Rea 1-1, Luke Gillett 5-minus 4.

Passing

CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE — Rayner 1-14-3, 39 yards.

CEDAR FALLS — Gillett 3-10-2, 25 yards, Gary 0-1-0.

Receiving

CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE — Grant Smith 1-39.

CEDAR FALLS — Wolf 2-22, Blake Christensen 1-3.

Cedar Falls 28, Prairie 7

C.R. Prairie 0 7 0 0 — 7

Cedar Falls 7 7 7 7 — 28

CF — Logan Wolf 41 interception return (Matthew Cook kick)

CRP — Keegan Simmons 1 run (Jayce Smith kick)

CF — Sam Gary 12 run (Cook kick)

CF — Daequan Thomas 2 fumble return (Cook kick)

CF — Jackson Gilbert 2 run (Cook kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

CRP CF

First downs 11 15

Rushes-yards 45-156 42-225

Comp-att-int 1-14-3 3-11-2

Passing yards 39 25

Punts-avg 5-35.4 4-34.75

Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-1

Penalties-yards 4-30 4-25

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE — Keegan Simmons 27-129, Braxton Zimmerman 9-22, Jace Andregg 3-19, Izaak Lindgren 2-2, Dalton Rayner 2-minus 5.

CEDAR FALLS — Sam Gary 26-176, Jackson Gilbert 8-47, Logan Wolf 1-7, Jace Rea 1-1, Luke Gillett 5-minus 4.

Passing

CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE — Rayner 1-14-3, 39 yards.

CEDAR FALLS — Gillett 3-10-2, 25 yards, Gary 0-1-0.

Receiving

CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE — Grant Smith 1-39.

CEDAR FALLS — Wolf 2-22, Blake Christensen 1-3.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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