West High celebrates its opening round win over Bettendorf. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Richard C. Lewis
Your Prep Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS – West High's defense rose to the occasion against a vaunted Cedar Rapids Prairie attack. And, because of that, the Trojans are in the Class 4A Final Four for the first time in 14 years.
Evan Flitz threw for five scores – three of them in the first half – while the Trojans’ defense held Prairie’s rushers in check, and West knocked off the sixth-ranked Hawks, 38-21, on Friday night at John Wall Field.
The win sends West High (9-2) to the 4A semifinals for the first time since 2002.
“It feels great for everybody involved in Trojan football,” said West coach Garrett Hartwig, who was emotional as he named other coaches who had contributed to the Trojans’ success, past and present. “I’ll probably have more to say about it once the season’s over, but we’re not just going to the (UNI) Dome to experience this. We’re going to approach it like we have a job. Whoever we play is going to be very good.”
Prairie came into the game hot as a firecracker. The Prairie Hawks had ripped off nine wins since a first-week loss to Cedar Rapids Washington, built on a deception-generating single wing formation that led Class 4A in total yards (463), rushing yards (334) and yards per play (8.3).
West High junior quarterback Evan Flitz
But the West defense was more than up to the challenge, limiting the Hawks to 164 rushing yards, and 306 overall.
“They did their job. Discipline,” Hartwig said. “Guys getting in position and hitting. You know, we said, ‘If you want to take it to Prairie, you have to be eleven savages on the field and not back down from anybody.’”
West scored on three of its four possessions in the first half. Flitz connected with Austin West on a 26-yard TD pass, found Traevis Buchanan for a 43-yard score and ended a long, second-quarter drive with a 13-yard toss Dillon Doyle.
The junior quarterback completed nine of 13 passes for 171 yards and the three scores in the opening two quarters.
“We just saw that they were going to move their safeties around, and we would just attack the gaps in the field, and we did that effectively tonight,” Flitz said.
Flitz misfired just once in the second half, finishing 22 of 27 for 326 yards and five TDs.
“Well, he’s got some good weapons,” Hartwig said of the Trojans’ receiving corps. “The credit first goes to the O line up front, who kept him clean. And, those receivers make plays, and Evan never does anything out of his body, out of his own system. He’s just calm and cool.”
West set the tone from the opening possession. The Trojans drove 68 yards on six plays, capped by West’s catch. Flitz completed four of five throws on the drive, none of them to star wideout Oliver Martin, who was getting extra coverage by a Hawks safety.
Prairie answered on its next possession on a 67-yard bomb from Dalton Rayner to Levi Usher. Until then, the Hawks had rushed each time, and appeared to catch the Trojans’ secondary off guard, as Usher was wide open over the middle on the scoring play.
It was the only big play the Trojans’ defense would allow in the opening two periods.
West held Prairie to 65 rushing yards in the first half. This from a Hawks team that gouged the Trojans for 349 yards rushing in a 39-20 setback on Sept. 23.
The Trojans didn’t let that little piece of history repeat itself.
“We knew what they were going to do from last time,” said Dillon Shephard, a junior defensive lineman who leads the team with eleven tackles for loss and had a key sack on a fourth-down play at the West 21 when Prairie looked to even the score at 14 in the second period.
West’s third touchdown came on a backbreaking march that took nearly seven minutes off the clock and nearly ended the half.
The key play came on a first-and-ten from the Prairie 13 when Flitz scrambled, stopped just short of the line of scrimmage and threw to Doyle, who was wide open in the back of the end zone.
West led 21-7 at the break.
The Trojans added a 28-yard field goal by Lucas Karwal to lead 24-7 at the end of three.
Prairie twice cut the lead to ten points in the final period, but West snuffed any hope of a comeback when Flitz hooked up with Martin on a 47-yard scoring strike and a 19-yarder to Doyle with less than a minute left.
West benefited from seeing Prairie’s unorthodox sets, and then watched film and practiced for the formations all week. The extra time spent paid off.
“Our practice squad really helped us out by running (the Prairie) plays well. We just were really prepared for it,” Shephard said.
Now, West has a week to prepare for fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Washington (10-1). They may not know the Warriors, but they’ll like the indoor conditions at the UNI Dome.
“There’s no wind in there, so that should probably be good,” Flitz quipped. “I hear it’s warm in there, so it should be good.”
CR Prairie West High
First downs 10 9
Rushes-Yards 38-164 31-119
Passing Yards 142 330
Comp-Att-Int 7-14-1 23-28-1
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 1-10 4-35
Cedar Rapids Prairie 7 0 0 14 – 21
Iowa City West 14 7 3 14 – 38
ICW – Austin West 26 pass from Evan Flitz (Lucas Karwal kick)
CRP – Levi Usher 67 pass from Dalton Rayner (Joel Collett kick)
ICW – Traevis Buchanan 43 pass from Flitz (Lucas Karwal kick)
ICW– Dillon Doyle 13 pass from Flitz (Lucas Karwal kick)
ICW – Karwal 28 FG
CRP – Joseph Meyer 3 run (Collett kick)
ICW – Oliver Martin 47 pass from Flitz (Karwal kick)
CRP – Meyer 7 pass from Rayner (Collett kick)
ICW – Doyle 19 pass from Flitz (Karwal kick)
Rushing – CRP: Joseph Meyer 20-98, Zachary Ganske 4-6, Josh Banks-Berry 3-20, Levi Usher, 4-15, Braxton Zimmerman 3-8, Dalton Rayner 4-14. ICW: Devontae Lane 14-67, Breyton McDole 3-10, Andre White 2-12, Cole Mabry 1-3, Evan Flitz 10-25, Jason Strunk 1-2.
Passing – CRP: Dalton Rayner 7-13-0 142, Levi Usher 0-1-1 0. ICW: Evan Flitz 22-27-0 326, Devontae Lane 1-1-0 4.
Receiving – CRP: Levi Usher 2-81, Joseph Meyer 3-36, Joah Banks-Berry 1-12, Preston LaGrange 1-13. ICW: Oliver Martin 10-155, Traevis Buchanan 2-52, Jason Strunk 1-2, Dillon Doyle 4-61, Austin West 3-37, Devontae Lane 2-21, Evan Flitz 1-4.