Dillon Shephard defends a pass against Bettendorf. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – A week ago West High got some revenge for a trio of past season-ending losses to Bettendorf.
This week the Trojans will try to avenge a more recent setback.
Fresh off a 24-17 upset at fifth-ranked Bettendorf in the opening round of the 4A playoffs West High (8-2) gets a rematch with sixth-ranked Prairie (9-1) on Friday night at John Wall Field.
Prairie enters the game riding a nine-game winning streak that includes a 39-20 win over West High on Sept. 23.
“They are a good team and this time of year you play the best and you have to beat the best,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “We will find out how far we’ve come since week five because it’s a big challenge.”
The biggest challenge for West High on Friday is solving Prairie’s single wing offense.
Prairie leads Class 4A in total yards (463), rushing yards (334) and yards per play (8.3) and ranks second in scoring at 44.7 points per game.
Senior Joseph Meyer (5-10, 170) leads the Prairie rushing attack with 1,426 yards, which ranks second in 4A and has a 4A-best 28 rushing touchdowns.
“A credit to them they don’t make mistakes, when you watch them you rarely see them behind the chains, I rarely see them in second and long,” Hartwig said. “They are very efficient, physical, their running backs as a tandem are incredible, they are tough to tackle and deceptive and we have to be ready.”
West High saw first-hand in the first meet how dangerous Prairie can be on offense.
Prairie is the only team to rush for more than 185 yards against West High this season rolling up 349 yards on the ground on its way to 439 total yards in the 39-20 win.
Only Muscatine had more total yards against West High during the regular season and the 39 points were the most allowed by the Trojans this season.
“As a team we didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” West High junior safety Dillon Doyle said. “You see how many rushing yards they put up against us last time, we are definitely going to lower that this time.”
West High is hoping that the previous experience against Prairie’s unorthodox offense that features lots of shifting and unbalanced formations will pay off on Friday.
“You kind of have to see it because film doesn’t do it justice,” West High sophomore safety Cole Mabry said. “The speed they run it at it’s hard to mimic that. I think seeing it is definitely going to help, it’s going to help us know what is coming at us.”
West High had its own offensive success in the regular season meeting with Prairie.
The Trojans rushed for 258 yards, the most allowed by the Hawks this season by more than 75 yards. Devontae Lane had a career-high 215 yards on the ground in the first meeting averaging 14.3 yards per carry.
Similar success on the ground would be critical for West High as they attempt to keep the explosive Prairie offense off the field.
“We need to sustain some drives, we can’t afford to put our defense out there time and time again,” Hartwig said. “That’s true for every offense and I feel they probably feel the same way.”
West High is averaging 44.2 points per game during a five-game winning streak since its loss to Prairie and has scored at least 24 points in every game.
The Trojans face a Prairie defense that is holding opponents to 291 total yards per game but has allowed an average of 431 yards in its last two games.
“Their offense gets the headlines but their defense is deceptively strong too,” Hartwig said. “They are no slouches there.”
There is more than revenge at stake on Friday for the Trojans.
West High is seeking its first trip to the state semifinals since 2002 while Prairie is after its first ever spot in the 4A semifinals and first semifinal appearance since winning the 3A title in 1981.
“We are excited but I think we are motivated more than anything because we think we can beat Prairie,” Doyle said. “We are just excited to get the opportunity to play them again.”