City High celebrates against Linn-Mar. Tork Mason/For Your Prep SportsBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Dan Sabers has been coaching long enough to know better than to be deceived by a team’s win-loss record.
The veteran City High coach certainly won’t be fooled by the 5-4 mark that North Scott brings into Friday’s Class 4A playoff opener at Lancer Field in Eldridge.
“This team is 4-0 as far as I’m concerned,” Sabers said of North Scott. “Since they got their guys together you can just tell that they know who they are and they know what they are going to do and they are a solid football team, there is no question about it.”
North Scott opened the season with back-to-back losses to Davenport Assumption and Clinton and dropped to 1-4 on the season with a 27-24 loss at Dubuque Hempstead in its district 6 opener on Sept. 23.
The Lancers have been perfect since and ride a four-game winning streak into Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup with tenth-ranked City High (7-2).
“There is something that changed around district play and they got stuff going,” City High senior linebacker Dillon Africa said. “Everything has seemed to click for them and they are a completely different team now than at the start of the season.”
North Scott opened the season at less than 100 percent and the numbers show it.
Playing without several starters, the Lancers allowed better than 400 yards of total offense and 30 points per game during their 1-4 start to the season.
Those numbers have dipped to 354 yards and 16.5 points per game during the Lancers’ four-game winning streak that helped cement a ninth straight postseason appearance.
“They’ve got some players that weren’t playing at first for different reasons and they got those guys back and they know who they are now,” Sabers said. “They’ve been playing very well now.”
North Scott is better across the board now than it was back in September but the Lancers have been good on offense for most of the season.
With a nearly equal run-pass balance the Lancers rank eighth in 4A in total offense averaging 381 yards per game.
“They changed their offense and defense up and they are a lot tougher team,” City High senior Jordain Buckland said. “They have a big offensive line and they are going to be physical so we will have our hands full with those guys.”
North Scott is averaging 209 rushing yards per game led by 200-pound junior tailback Jared Rus who needs five yards on Friday to reach 1,000 rushing yards on the season.
Senior quarterback Sam Stonskas has run for 488 yards and six touchdowns and passed for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
“They run quick screens and their guys get the ball and they are north and south, north and south. They are a north and south team,” Sabers said. “Their tailbacks go north and south, their quarterback when he runs the ball it’s north and south.”
After falling 4407 to Bettendorf in week eight City High got the bounce back performance it needed last week in the form of a 55-20 win over Davenport North.
City High will be seeking its own offensive balance on Friday after being held to 79 yards rushing in the loss to Bettendorf.
The Little Hawks haven’t rushed for more than 200 yards in a game this season since a week three loss to Ames.
“It’s very important for us to be able to run the ball,” Buckland said. “We have a good passing game; I think everyone knows that we have athletes at receiver but teams focus on that and when they try to stop the pass we need a run game to make us a two-dimensional offense.”
With two teams intent on establishing a running game the first meeting between the two programs since 2006 has the makings of a physical, low scoring battle in the trenches.
Sabers is excited to see how his team handles that after struggling with the physicality of Bettendorf two weeks ago.
“I’m expecting a physical battle and we better make sure that we prove that we can handle some physicality because obviously, we didn’t do so well against Bettendorf when they came out and said we are going to be physical,” Sabers said. “I think that is going to be the challenge is for us to match their physicality.”