WAVERLY — Decorah was in trouble.
Down 14 points on the road against unbeaten and Class 3A No. 7 Waverly-Shell Rock, the Vikings needed a spark.
And they found a big one Friday night.
Decorah’s Kailer McCabe returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and his team was off and running en route to a 30-14 football win in a district opener.
It was the first of three touchdowns for McCabe, who also scored on a 41-yard reception and a 1-yard run.
The Vikings scored 20 second-quarter points before adding the game’s final 10 points in the second half.
Decorah, which has played a brutal early schedule, improved to 3-2 overall.
“The kickoff return was huge – it obviously was a very big play,” first-year Decorah coach Pat Trewin said. “High school football is such a game of momentum. We needed something big to happen and Kailer and our team really got after it. We hit some big plays — we hadn’t done that all year.”
The Go-Hawks fell for the first time in five games heading into another tough game next week. Waverly-Shell Rock plays at West Delaware, the team that defeated them in the playoffs last season.
“We’ve got a good football team and we’re going to regroup,” Waverly-Shell Rock coach Mark Hubbard said. “We have a few things we need to clean up and most of the things we’ve struggled with we know we can fix. Our kids are resilient and we will bounce back.”
Waverly-Shell Rock took charge early in the battle of long-time rivals before the Vikings struck for 20 unanswered points in the second quarter to grab the halftime lead.
Right after Waverly-Shell Rock went up 14-0, McCabe caught the ensuing kickoff near the goal line and charged up the sideline for his long touchdown.
“We knew they had a great kicking game and kick returns, and it showed tonight,” Hubbard said. “They played on a short field the whole night. Field position was a huge factor in this football game.”
Decorah’s Drake Shelton followed with a two-yard scoring run before McCabe hauled in a pinpoint scoring pass from quarterback Jace Johnson.
The Go-Hawks opened the scoring when quarterback Luke Velky fooled everyone with a nifty ball fake and dashed 31 yards untouched for a touchdown. Carter Langreck added a two-yard scoring run to put Waverly-Shell Rock up 14-0.
“Their quarterback is a very dangerous runner and he showed that right away on that first touchdown,” Trewin said. “We did a great job making adjustments to try and contain him. We made a change with our alignment and our linebackers were able to see the play. The kids really adjusted well to their speed and did a great job on defense.”
Said Hubbard: “Hats off to them and their defense. They did a great job.”
McCabe finished with 227 all-purpose yards while the speedy Shelton collected 140 yards rushing.
Ben Hemer rushed for 124 yards for the Go-Hawks.
Starting district play with a big road win put a smile on Trewin’s face.
“We knew this was a very important game on our schedule — it always is,” he said. “We knew Waverly was one of the top teams in the league and it’s always a huge rivalry game. We knew if we are going to win the district we need to beat Waverly in this kind of a game. We have other tough ballgames coming, we just have to be steady and consistent.
“Our kids showed up to play tonight.”
Decorah 30, Waverly-S.R. 14
Decorah 0 20 0 10 — 30
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Waverly-S.R. 7 7 0 0 — 14
WSR – Luke Velky 31 run (Dawson Bathke kick)
WSR – Carter Langreck 2 run (Bathke kick)
Dec – Kailer McCabe 98 kickoff return (Cameron DeLong kick)
Dec – Drake Shelton 2 run (kick failed)
Dec – McCabe 41 pass from Jace Johnson (DeLong kick)
Dec – FG DeLong 37
Dec – McCabe 1 run (DeLong kick)
First downs 17 9
Rushes-yards 43-215 34-192
Passing yards 98 55
Comp-att-int 7-10-0 5-14-0
Punts-avg. 3-29.7 7-30.4
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 2-12 3-20
DECORAH — Shelton 21-140, McCabe 10-35, Johnson 5-26, Johansen 5-16.
WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK — Hemer 21-124, Velky 9-53, Heise 2-10, Langreck 2-5.
DECORAH — Johnson 7-10-0, 98 yards.
WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK — Velky 5-14-0, 55 yards.
DECORAH — McCabe 4-77, Franzen 1-15, Solberg 1-9, Cowie 1-minus 3.
WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK — McNally 1-34, Langreck 1-11, Newsom 1-11, Heise 1-0, Hemer 1-minus 1.