Wartburg senior safety Jared Wauters and his teammates would have waited until midnight to hoist the conference championship trophy if they had to.
The Knights left no doubt on the field Saturday with a 59-3 victory to give them the IIAC title outright and an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
After 30-minute lightning delays before kickoff and at halftime, the only question was when they could finally hold on to the trophy.
“We’ve waited a whole year to raise the trophy, we can wait a few more hours,” Wauters said. “It felt good to get it done, finally.”
Wartburg head coach Rick Willis echoed that statement and said they would have done whatever it took to take the trophy back to Waverly for the first time since 2010.
“We weren’t gonna let anything bother us or distract us or derail us from what our goal was and what our mission was today,” Willis said. “Whatever it takes, however long it takes to do it, that’s what we’re willing to do. It’s always a little bit frustrating when you get in those situations but I thought our guys did a good job of handling it.”
The Knights (8-2, 6-1) jumped on the Duhawks (1-9, 0-7) quickly, scoring 21 first-half points and extending that lead to 38-3 at halftime in front of 865 people at the Rock Bowl.
Brandon Domeyer ran 10 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns and Logan Schrader completed 9-of-12 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
“I thought it was really important for us to get off to a good start and not let Loras hang around with us and that’s exactly what we did,” Willis said.
Wartburg outgained Loras — which scored in double digits only once this season — 487-142 and had 24 first downs to the Duhawks’ five.
Domeyer ran and leaped into the endzone from one yard out on the first two Wartburg possessions for a 14-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
Then Schrader delivered a 25-yard TD pass to Robbie Anstoetter at the end of the quarter and 29 and 21-yard strikes to Miller and Anstoetter in the second quarter to give the Knights a 35-0 lead with 6:50 left in the half.
The teams traded field goals before halftime and most of the Wartburg starters sat for the second half.
“It was great to see everything firing on all cylinders, offense, defense, special teams,” senior linebacker Ryan Billings said. “It was great to get some young guys in there and get them some experience as well.”
JJ Hanus threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Westhoff after a Zach Twedt interception in the third quarter.
Then in the fourth, Jordan Schmitt blocked a punt and Jake Haberman ran 12 yards for a score on the next play and Hanus darted 20 yards to the house a few minutes later to reach the final tally.
It was the only convincing win the Knights had in a conference defined by parity this season. Their other five wins came by an average of six points.
“The guys just kept fighting,” Willis said. “They figured out how to win. That’s a great trait for a team is to be tough competitors that play the whole ball game.”
Simpson finished one game back of Wartburg in second while Dubuque, Central, Coe and Buena Vista all tied for third with 4-3 records. Luther and Loras came in at the bottom.
It’s a rewarding feeling for a program that’s lost two conference games by one point and two more by three points as they came up short of the title the last two years.
“The guys, really since this game a year ago, have focused on this day and reaching this goal,” Willis said. “To see that happen, that’s really the most gratifying piece of it because you know how hard so many people have worked to make the thing happen. You can tell how excited and happy they are and that’s part of what it’s all about.”
Wartburg will learn its destination for next Saturday’s NCAA playoffs first round Sunday at 5 p.m.
Wartburg (8-2, 6-1) 21 17 7 14 — 59
Loras (1-9, 0-7) 0 3 0 0 — 3
W- Domeyer 1 run (Bohlke kick) (11:52 1st)
W- Domeyer 1 run (Bohlke kick) (8:01 1st)
W- Anstoetter 25 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (0:35 1st)
W- Miller 29 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (11:02 2nd)
W- Anstoetter 21 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (6:50 2nd)
L- FG Oswald 23 (2:36 2nd)
W- FG Bohlke 28 (0:20 2nd)
W- Westhoff 6 pass from Hanus (Lizalek kick) (4:33 3rd)
W- Haberman 12 run (Lizalek kick) (12:40 4th)
W- Hanus 20 run (Lizalek kick) (9:48 4th)
Rushing — Wartburg: Domeyer 10-76-2, Kastli 17-70; Loras: Smith 25-119, Carrier 4-3
Passing — Wartburg: Schrader 9-12-150-3, Hanus 6-9-89-1; Loras: Jones 5-13-45, Adams 0-1
Receiving — Wartburg: Herrington 3-74, Anstoetter 3-55-2; Loras: Zoeckler 2-27, Powers 1-8
Tackles — Wartburg: Twedt 7 (3 TFL), Ehlers 7 (1 TFL); Loras: Harridge 11 (3 TFL), Kuehl 11 (1 TFL)