By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – City High coach Dan Sabers figured the best way to keep the boot on the east side of Iowa City was to defend its honor.
And that’s exactly what the Little Hawks did in spectacular fashion by using an aggressive and suffocating defense to defeat rival West High 20-7 in the much-anticipated Battle for the Boot on Friday at West High.
“We just knew we had to become more aggressive and I think we were pretty effective at doing that,” Sabers said of his defense, which held West’s vaunted offense to just 165 yards, including 85 passing yards. “And then our secondary was awesome. It was awesome.”
City’s secondary had the task of trying to contain West’s stable of talented receivers, led by prize recruit Oliver Martin.
The defensive line did its part by pressuring West junior quarterback Evan Flitz throughout the game. Flitz often had to scramble from the pocket to avoid the pressure, but he rarely found any open receivers.
And if they were open, Flitz often had to rush his throw to avoid being sacked.
“Coach knew that the quarterback was a young quarterback who never really played any varsity minutes last year,” City senior lineman Charles Johnson said of Flitz. “So coach knew just to come out and take it at him. We knew we had kind of an advantage, we’re more of a skill team, more of a speed team and we’re more experienced.”
The victory improved City’s record to 3-1 overall heading into district play next Friday. West also will bring a 3-1 record into district play.
Both teams lost fumbles on their opening drives of the game and that set the tone for a sloppy first half, which included six turnovers, three by each team.
West also was penalized seven times for 61 costly yards in the game.
“The credit goes to City High,” said West High coach Garrett Hartwig. “They did what they do. But we made so many mistakes tonight, a lot of self-inflected wounds that we couldn’t recover from. You’re not going to win games like this making those kinds of mistakes.”
The game was scoreless until City senior Bryce Frantz blasted into the end zone from 10 yards out with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
Frantz’s touchdown came after the Little Hawks had recovered a West fumble at the City 37-yard line.
Neither team scored in the second quarter, which was marred by turnovers and some chippy play.
City High lost fumbles on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, while West missed a field goal, threw an interception and allowed several sacks.
City High senior Vance Dillon provided a much-needed spark by returning the opening kick of the second half 59 yards to the West 40.
City High quarterback Nate Wieland then completed a 34-yard pass to junior receiver Zach Jones on the first play of the drive.
After two short running plays, Wieland scored on a 1-yard run with 10:26 left in the third quarter. However, the point-after kick failed, keeping the score at 13-0.
West continued to struggle on offense in the third quarter and was forced to punt on back-to-back possessions.
City expanded its lead to 20-0 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Frantz with 1:51 left in the third quarter.
Frantz was a workhorse from start to finish, carrying 30 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s just tough,” Sabers said of the 5-10, 195-pound Frantz. “He lowers his shoulder. He’s sees and cuts so well. We got a lot of good football players out there.”
West finally got on the scoreboard when Flitz completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brennon Keen with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter.
City then consumed much of the remaining clock with a methodical drive that mostly featured Frantz grinding for yards.
Frantz was exhausted after the game, but he still had enough energy to celebrate with his teammates and classmates at midfield.
“After that game, I can just build up so much energy watching everybody jump around and just celebrate with my friends,” Frantz said.
Frantz praised his team’s defense for setting the tone early.
“The defense played excellent against their top-notch players like Oliver and Devontae Lane,” Frantz said. “I just think they came out with a little some extra because of knowing how well those offensive players play.”
The game was physical throughout as both team lost key skill players to injury. Lane and City High senior Naeem Smith both had to be helped off the field after taking a vicious hit in the third quarter.
Neither player returned to the game.
Martin was held to just 37 receiving yards on five catches. Junior corner back Zach Jones was largely responsible for keeping Martin in check with single coverage.
“I trust (my athleticism very much,” Jones said. “I was born with it. I thank God. I thank my parents.”
Jones also trusted that his teammates in the trenches would apply pressure.It proved to be the right formula for shutting down one of the state’s most explosive offenses.
“The numbers that the West High offense had been putting up is insane,” said Wieland who in addition to playing quarterback on Friday also started at strong safety. “We knew we had had to prepare hard. They were one of the best offenses that we’ll face. And we knew this challenge was coming and I think we did a great job against them.”
The night was capped by a wild celebration at midfield after the game.
“Oh, my God, this is so great,” Johnson said. I’ve played in four boot games and this is the best one. Senior year is the way to have it.”
City High West High
First Downs 19 14
Rushes-Yards 47-144 31-85
Passing Yards 93 80
Comp-Att-Int 7-13-1 13-27-2
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-40 7-61
West High 0 0 0 7 – 7
City High 7 0 13 0 – 20
ICH – Bryce Frantz 10 run (Miles Morrow kick)
ICH – Nate Wieland 1 run (Kick failed)
ICH – Frantz 7 run (Morrow kick)
ICW – Brennon Keen 15 pass from Evan Flitz (Lucas Karwal kick)
Rushing – ICW: Strunk 8-50, Devontae Lane 8-24, Evan Flitz 14-2, Breyton McDole 1-9. ICH: Bryce Frantz 30-142, Nate Wieland 14-5, Brock Hunger 2-1, Kennardo Rodney 1-(-4).
Passing – ICW: Evan Flitz 13-27-2 80. ICH: Nate Wieland 7-13-1 93.
Receiving – ICW: Oliver Martin 5-37, Traevis Buchanon 2-17, Brennon Keen 1-15, Dillon Doyle 1-8, Evan Hermiston 1-5, Jacquese Parks 1-4, Devo
ntae Lane 1-0, Evan Flitz 1-(-6). ICH: Zach Jones 2-42, Naeem Smith 2-34, Vance Dillon 3-17.