Prep Rewind: Playoff Picture Coming Into Focus
Solon players make a tackle against Regina. Jackie Blake Jensen/IC Pixx.By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
With two weeks remaining in the regular season the playoff picture is slowly coming into focus for teams around the state.
West High and West Branch both had their paths to the postseason clear up considerably on Friday.
Both West Branch and West High picked up key wins on Friday and will need back-to-back wins to end the regular season.
“We have to win every game from now on, we have to win out,” West High senior Nick Kean said. “So this week was the biggest game of the season, now next week is the biggest game of the season.”
West High (5-2) kept its playoff hopes alive with a 24-10 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
At 2-1 in district play, West High holds the head-to-head tie breaker over Cedar Rapids Kennedy and can secure a playoff berth with back-to-back wins over Linn-Mar (2-5) and Ottumwa (0-7) to close the regular season and any Kennedy loss.
The Cougars host district leading Cedar Rapids Prairie (6-1) in the regular season finale.
In the event of a three-way tie for the District 8 title the next tie breaker is the 17-poing point differential average.
“It keeps us having something to play for and that’s what these seniors deserve,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “It would be a shame for a team like this not to have a shot because I think we are one of the best teams on the east side of the state.”
The playoff path is much more simple for West Branch – win and the Bears are in.
Despite a season that has featured a myriad of injuries the Bears enter the final two weeks of the season in control of their own destiny in the 1A, District 3 race.
West Branch (5-2) can secure a postseason berth with wins at Tipton (4-3) and at home over Clayton Ridge (5-2) to end the season.
“The way the season has gone we have to be real pleased to be in this position at 5-2,” West Branch coach Butch Pedersen said. “We control our own destiny so we will see what happens with it.”
City High (6-1), Solon (6-1) and Regina (6-1) can all clinch the top spot in their district with a win this week.
Solon travels to West Burlington/Notre Dame (4-3) and can secure the top spot in Class 3A, District 5 and a home playoff game with a win.
Regina travels to Columbus (1-6) where it can clinch the 1A, District 4 title.
City High will host Bettendorf on Friday in a winner-take-all showdown for the Class 4A, District 7 title.
Clear Creek Amana (6-1) is locked in a battle for the top two spots in Class 3A, District 4 as one of four teams with 4-1 district marks.
West Delaware, Marion and the Clippers’ opponent this week, Davenport Assumption are all tied for the district lead.
Familiar outcome: New year, same story for City High and Muscatine.
For the third straight season the two district rivals played a shootout that wasn’t decided until the final seconds.
City High rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to win its second straight over the Muskies, holding on for a 36-28 win.
The teams have combined to score 238 in the three games the past three seasons wth those games being decided by a combined 16 points.
Pick Leader: West Branch defensive back Jacob Graves intercepted two passes on Friday in a 35-14 win over North Cedar giving the junior a school single-season record seven interceptions on the season.
Graves has intercepted two passes in each of the Bears’ last two games and has an interception in five of the last six games.
Offensive player of the week: West Branch needed a boost in the second half on Friday and they got it from their senior leader.
Luke Lenoch had three of his four rushing touchdowns in the second half and finished with 226 yards on 42 carries in a 35-14 win over North Cedar.
Lenoch scored on runs of 3, 13, 2 and 6 yards on Friday upping his season totals to 1,307 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Runner-up: West High senior receiver Oliver Martin had his fifth 100-yard game of the season, catching nine passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive player of the week: Jacob Coons, Trevor Nelson and the rest of their Solon teammates get the nod after recording seven sacks in a shutout of Mount Pleasant.
Coons and Nelson both had two sacks and Nelson made a team-high 9 tackles. Graeson Dall had an interception as Solon held Mount Pleasant to 55 yards of total offense.
Runner-up: West High senior linebacker Max Brown led a strong Trojan defensive effort in a 24-10 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy with 11 tackles, including six solo stops and a tackle for loss.