Records, Rankings Bring Big-Time Excitement to Battle for the Boot
City High coach Dan Sabers. Tork Mason/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – In a rivalry its often said that things like statistics and records can be tossed out the window.
In the last two meetings between cross-town rivals City High and West High both teams would have just assumed forgotten all about the win-loss records.
Each of the past two seasons the annual Battle for the Boot has been played by teams with a combined 1-5 record.
That will change on Friday when Class 4A No. 9 City High (2-1) and fifth-ranked West High (3-0) meet in the regular season for the 48th time at Trojan Field.
“These are two good programs and good teams and the records the last couple years are a product of I think tough matchups, tough schedules over the course of two years,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “Now it’s 3-0 vs. 2-1 and both teams I think are serious contenders.”
For years the annual meeting between City High and West High was a top-10 struggle between two of the top teams on the eastern side of the state.
The two perennial 4A powers combined for seven state titles between 1993 and 2009.
Friday will be the first time since No. 10 City High knocked off No. 2 West High 14-7 in 2013 that both teams enter the game ranked.
“I think it’s more special the teams are ranked,” City High coach Dan Sabers said. “It’s too bad we didn’t take care of business on Friday night or it would have been a four versus five or something like that but it’s still there. The excitement is there. I definitely think it is.”
Regardless of the records the excitement never left the rivalry.
Last year 1-2 City High held off 0-3 West High 14-12 in front of a raucous crowd in a game delayed more than two hours by thunderstorms.
With the records for both teams reversed this season the eyes of the state are once again the Battle for the Boot.
“It’s kind of a big statement game for us because we are 3-0 they are 2-1 they are playing here,” West High senior Devontae Lane said. “Last year everyone said the excuse was the field now we have them on our field at home so we have to protect our house.”
Last year’s loss to City High dropped West High to 0-4 on the season.
The Trojans would complete a 180 degree turn from last season’s start with a win on Friday.
West High opened the season with an impressive 42-17 win over Southeast Polk before winning back-to-back games over ranked teams Muscatine and Cedar Falls by a combined 11 points.
City High won back-to-back games over Linn-Mar and Pleasant Valley to open the season but enters Friday’s showdown coming off a 30-27 overtime loss to Ames.
“Both teams definitely have something to prove,” West High linebacker Max Brown said. “City High had a little slip up last week and they are really going to try to rebound and they are going to give it their all and so are we.”
The rivalry has been nearly dead even for the last half decade.
The Boot has changed hands each of the past five seasons with the home team winning all five.
City High will try to be the first team to win consecutive games in the series since the Little Hawks won seven straight from 2005 to 2011.
“I’m going to tell you right now, I think as far as the kids and everybody is concerned next to a semifinal game in the dome, I don’t think there is a game more important than the Boot Game,” Sabers said. “There is just something that goes with the in-town bragging rights and all of that. Both schools have had success and it definitely means something. It’s a big game in my book.”
West High will be trying to win back-to-back games against City High for the first time in nearly two decades.
The Trojans last winning streak in the series was three in a row from 1997 to 1999.
Hartwig is 1-1 in Boot games as a head coach but knows the importance of a win in the rivalry especially with a district opener on the road at 3-1 Cedar Rapids Prairie looming in seven days.
“As a coach I look at it as a mid-season game right before district I just have to because win or lose we have five more games and so does City and they all count,” Hartwig said. “I also know on Friday night the football world stops for both of these schools and it means more on that night than you can possibly imagine.”