West High’s Devontae Lane looks for running room against Bettendorf. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The road to the UNI-Dome has been filled with redemption for West High.
West High upset long-time playoff nemesis Bettendorf and avenged a regular season loss to Cedar Rapids Prairie in last week’s quarterfinals en route to its first semifinal berth since 2002.
Given the path it took to get there it seems only fitting the team waiting for West High in Cedar Falls is another eastern Iowa archenemy.
West High (9-2) will face fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Washington (10-1) for the fourth time in three seasons in the Class 4A semifinals on Friday at 7:06 p.m. in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“We just look at it as we’ve got another huge opportunity in front of us with an incredible tough opponent,” West High head coach Garrett Hartwig said. “We’re just ready to play.”
The recent history between the two teams has been all Warriors.
Washington has won the previous three meetings with West High by an average of 27 points per game.
That stretch includes a 44-19 Warrior win in the 2014 quarterfinals that denied West High a spot in the UNI-Dome and a 42-13 win at Trojan Field last season that was part of an 0-4 start to the season for West High.
The seniors on the West High roster have been around long enough to remember all three of those losses.
The West High defense makes a stop against Bettendorf. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.
“All of us who played last year know the feeling of getting smoked 42-13 on our own field,” West High senior linebacker Max Brown said. “I don’t think any of us wanted that again.”
Wins the last two weeks over fifth-ranked Bettendorf and No. 6 Prairie prove that West High can play with anyone.
Now the Trojans just need to show they can win on the state’s biggest stage against a team making its second appearance in the UNI-Dome in the past three years.
“I think we just need to play like we have been all year and just play hard-nosed and fundamentally sound football,” Brown said. “We can’t let the fact that we are in the dome change the way that we play, we just have to play the way we have all year.”
Behind back-to-back strong passing performances from junior quarterback Evan Flitz the West High offense is averaging 398 yards and 31 points in a pair of playoff wins.
Still the key to the Trojans return to the semifinals for the first time in 14 seasons has been the defense.
After holding Bettendorf to 253 yards and 17 points in the opening round West High limited Prairie to 310 total yards and 21 points last week.
It was the lowest total for the Hawks in both categories since a 28-14 loss to Washington in the season opener.
“I believe we are playing our best right now,” Brown said. “A team like Prairie, I have a lot of respect for their offense they are averaging around 400 yards a game and we shut them down and I don’t think any team beside Washington has been able to do that.”
The West High defense will need to be on top of its game on Friday against Washington offense that enters averaging 404 total yards and 41.9 points per game.
Washington has scored at least 30 points in five straight games since it’s only loss of the season, a 27-21 setback to Cedar Falls.
“They have playmakers on the outside, the have a big offensive line and they have a tailback that is running well right now,” Hartwig said. “We are again probably an undersized defense going up against a big offensive line similar to Bettendorf so we have to rely a bit on our speed and our fundamentals otherwise they will gash us.”