By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The win or go home portion of the high school football season doesn’t start for three more weeks.
The way West High coach Garrett Hartwig views things, every game for the rest of the season, starting with Friday’s Class 4A, District 8 matchup with Cedar Rapids Kennedy, is an elimination game.
“It comes down to these three weeks, we know it,” Hartwig said. “It’s a three-game playoff and you are fighting for your life.”
West High (4-2, 1-1 District 8) heads to Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Friday trailing both Kennedy (4-2, 2-0) and Cedar Rapids Prairie (5-1, 2-0) in the District 8 standings.
If the Trojans are going to grab one of the two open playoff spots in District 8 and make a sixth consecutive postseason appearance they can likely not afford another loss.
That makes each of the remaining three games a must-win starting on Friday against defending 4A runner-up Kennedy.
“We have to win out,” West High junior quarterback Ethan Postler said. “We have to play well each week, we have to do our best in practice and go out and play Trojan football and things will take care of themselves.”
A win on Friday puts West High in the thick of the District 8 race with two games to play.
To put themselves in that position the Trojans will need to slow a Kennedy offense that is averaging 308 rushing yards per game during its current four-game winning streak.
Six different players have more than 100 yards in the Cougars’ balanced rushing attack led by Rizaiha Maide with 371 yards and seven touchdowns.
Sophomore Keyshawn Allers has given the Cougars a boost of late, rushing for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games in his first extensive action of the season.
“They have very good skill players and they have a very physical and intense offensive line,” Hartwig said. “If we don’t match their intensity they are going to be a lot to handle.
The two Mississippi Valley Conference foes are plenty familiar with each other.
West High and Kennedy have split a pair of three-point games the past two seasons.
Kennedy edged West High 34-31 in last year’s season opener on its way to a 13-1 season and a spot in the 4A title game.
West High rallied for a 12-9 win over the Cougars in Hartwig’s first game leading the program in 2014.
Friday should be another game decided in the fourth quarter.
“They are capable of putting up a lot of points and shutting us down on defense,” Hartwig said. “So it could be anything from a close game to a rout.”
West High got back on track last week, snapping a two-game losing skid with a 59-7 win over Burlington.
The Trojans will try to build on that offensive momentum on Friday against a Kennedy defense that is allowing 14 points per game.
Kennedy has been especially stingy against the pass, holding opponents to 96 passing yards per game and a 45 percent completion rate.
Postler threw for 118 yards in relief of injured starter Evan Flitz last week.
Hartwig expects Postler to be ready for his first big challenge as a starter if Flitz can’t return on Friday.
“We’ve always know Ethan could do it, we’ve know that since day one so I would hope that he wouldn’t need a game to get confidence but the only way to get experience is to get experience.” Hartwig said. “He did well, he did exactly what he needed to do and he didn’t do too much and we expect him to keep doing that going forward.”