City High players celebrate against Linn-Mar. Tork Mason/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Since a season-ending loss to Bettendorf in the 4A quarterfinals last season City High has wanted a shot a redemption.
The Little Hawks have an opportunity to seize a lot more than just a measure of revenge when Bettendorf visits Bates Field on Friday.
A district title and home field advantage in the playoffs will be on the line when traditional 4A powers City High (6-1) and Bettendorf (5-2) square off in a top-10 matchup.
“We drew it up like this basically,” City High senior lineman Scooter Hickman said. “We wanted to play Bettendorf in a big game on Bates Field, it’s going to be very historic so I’m very excited for it.”
Fourth-ranked City High set the stage for the winner-take-all district showdown against No. 6 Bettendorf with its 36-28 win over Muscatine last week.
The lone remaining unbeaten teams in Class 4A, District 7 will meet on Friday with the winner securing the district title and a home game in the first round of the postseason.
City High senior Scooter Hickman
For City High redemption is on the table as well after being outscored 75-14 in a pair of losses to Bettendorf last season, including a 31-7 loss in the 4A quarterfinals.
“This is what we want, we want the big stage set, especially on our home field with senior night and everything,” City High senior Dillon Africa said. “It’s just what we want.”
The stage is set, now all the Little Hawks need to do is perform.
Bettendorf has won three straight over City High since a 21-7 Little Hawk win in the 2010 quarterfinals, with all three of those wins coming in the last two years and by at least 24 points.
In the last three meetings Bettendorf has outgained City High 831 to 34 on the ground, including a 221 to -40 difference in last year’s playoff win.
“We have to try to be able to handle their physicality,” City High coach Dan Sabers said. “They’ve beaten us up a few times physically because they play very aggressive defense and they platoon a lot so they stay fresh.”
The rivalry goes much deeper than the last two seasons.
Bettendorf holds a 14-9 edge in the all-time series that dates back to 1970 when the teams were Mississippi Valley Conference rivals.
Two of the most successful programs in eastern Iowa over the past two decades, the traditional powers have combined for 18 semifinal appearances, 10 state title game appearances and four championships in the last 21 years.
City High and Bettendorf have played eight times in the playoffs since 1995, with six of those meetings coming after the second round.
“You look at the East side of the state and those are definitely two names that come up and should come up as two of the top programs on this side of the state,” Sabers said. “So to meet them again for a championship is pretty darn good.”
Both teams enter Friday’s district title matchup riding four-game winning streaks.
Bettendorf is averaging better than 295 rushing yards per game during its four-game winning streak that followed a 1-2 start to the season.
The Bulldogs are averaging 373 yards a game this season with 251 of that coming on the ground.
“We know that they have a huge offensive line,” Hickman said. “We have to stay low and stand up with those big boys and try to stop them from running it.”
The run game has been critical in the previous three meetings between the two teams.
City High has had games of 15, 59 and -40 yards rushing in the last three meetings. This year Bettendorf is as stingy as ever against the run, allowing just 108 yards per game on the ground.
The Bulldogs haven’t allowed a team to rush for 200 yards in a game this season and have held four opponents under 100 yards rushing.
“We’ve struggled running the ball against them and everybody struggles running it against them,” Sabers said. “They just get to the football so well, they are so aggressive so we have to be able to find ways to run the football.”
For City High to be successful on Friday they will need to be able to move the ball on the ground enough to avoid obvious passing situations.
City High hopes that will open things up for senior quarterback Nate Wieland who has missed the last two meetings with Bettendorf.
Wieland is averaging 190 passing yards per game during City High’s four-game winning streak and has four touchdowns and just one interception during that span.
“We have to be able to match their physicality and then be as diverse as we can offensively because they like to get in your face and they do a very good job of that,” Sabers said. “They are very disruptive.”
Last year’s quarterfinal meeting was tied 7-7 at halftime but Bettendorf scored 24 unanswered points in the second half while holding City High to -9 yards and without a first down in the final two quarters.
City High is eager to make amends on Friday.
“It’s what we’ve all been waiting for definitely the whole year plus all of the off-season,” Africa said. “This is what we’ve been getting ready for and it means a lot especially just because last year how they beat us twice, this one win, to win a district championship would outweigh all of that by far.”