SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KCAU) – From going winless two years ago, Bishop Heelan football is making its first trip to the State title game since 2014. A remarkable turnaround that’s given the Crusaders a chance to end its memorable year on the perfect note.
With 37 State playoff trips in 43 years, Bishop Heelan made its stamp as a perennial power. But after an 0-9 record in 2021 and a total of just three wins in the last three seasons, hardships came Heelan’s way.
“Our team has obviously been through a lot. A lot adversity, been through all that losing and it doesn’t feel good. We just don’t want to have that feeling again,” Bishop Heelan senior tight end/linebacker Max Delaney said.
“We just kind of use that adversity to our advantage and use that as fuel. We don’t really care what anyone else has to say about us because we know what we’re capable of,” Bishop Heelan senior quarterback/defensive back Quinn Olson said.
And so did Jon LaFleur. Hired as the new head coach of Bishop Heelan football in 2022, the Crusader alum and former Iowa football captain knew they could take their work ethic to a new level. It’d come to light this fall in a season opening win over Kuemper Catholic.
“Some of the times last year we let some of those games slip away from us, and to be able to find a way to win that first game of the year I think that was maybe a little bit of a turning point. Great teams are guys that really play for each other and these guys have come together. They’re as tight as a family,” Bishop Heelan head coach Jon LaFleur said.
Heelan was off to the races from there. Scoring just 13 points per game two years ago, the Crusaders are averaging 33.5 points this year. Flexing an 11-1 mark towards an upset on top-seed Creston in the State semifinals. Re-igniting that winning brand of Heelan ball on the biggest stage.
“Just the culture change. Everyone has bought in a lot more than I can remember freshman year,” Olson said.
“Everyone is just showing up more, putting in more, just working harder. Everyone is doing the right things and doing our jobs. No one really cares who scores or who does good. As long as we do good as a team, that’s what we want,” Delaney said.
A resiliency and selflessness that’s proved doubters wrong and has the Crusaders one win away from its first State title in 10 years. The final chapter to cap a storybook season that, win or lose, has put Bishop Heelan football back on the map.
“It’s been phenomenal, it’s been unbelievable, it’s been a real joy to coach these guys,” LaFleur said.
“I think years following it’s going to be a lot of what it used to be like. Might as well empty the tank,” Olson said.
#8 Bishop Heelan is set to battle #3 Williamsburg for the Class 3A State championship tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.