Devontae Lane scores in West High’s 35-7 semifinal win over Cedar Rapids Washington. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
CEDAR FALLS – The first trip to the UNI-Dome in 14 years was a happy one for West High.
Forget happy, the return to the semifinals was more like thrilling for the Trojans. It was also downright dominating.
Evan Flitz passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns and Devontae Lane ran for two scores as West High returned to the state title game for the first time since 1999 with a 35-7 win over fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Washington (10-2) in the Class 4A semifinals on Friday night.
“I’m happy with how we played and I’m proud of our guys,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “When you get to this level you want to play well on the big stage and at this point the team is turned over to the boys and they are winners, they are winners.”
Oliver Martin caught a pair of touchdown passes and West High (10-2) held Washington scoreless over the final three quarters while running its winning streak to seven straight.
The win was the third consecutive playoff victory over a ranked opponent for West High which will face three-time defending champion West Des Moines Dowling (11-1) in the 4A title game on Nov. 18 at 7:06 p.m.
“This was our goal at the beginning of the season to make it to the state championship game and that’s what we worked hard for all off-season and all fall,” Martin said. “So it means a lot to us but we have one more game.”
West High scored 35 unanswered points after falling into an early 7-0 deficit and outgained Washington 377 to 156.
The 156 yards and seven points were both season lows for the Warriors which hadn’t scored less than 30 points in a game during a five-game winning streak that ended on Friday.
West High gets pressure on Washington quarterback. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.West High held the Warriors to a season-low 90 yards rushing on 30 attempts and didn’t allow a point over the final 38 minutes.
“Offense keeps you in games but defense wins game,” Hartwig said. “The credit goes to coach (Tyler) Meade and the defensive staff. Those guys are doing a great job of preparing our team and I’m proud of them. We are executing and we are excited.”
In its first semifinal appearance since 2002 things got off to a rocky start for the Trojans on offense.
West High lost fumbles inside the Warrior 25 yard line on each of its first two possessions, the second one Washington defensive back Drew Dostal returned 65 yards to the Trojan 10.
Three plays later Ian Thomas scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge to put Washington up 7-0 with 2:43 left in the opening quarter.
West High answered with a pair of scores in the final four minutes of the half to change the momentum.
Flitz connected with Martin for a 34-yard touchdown pass that capped a 6-play, 63-yard drive that was kept alive by a roughing the punter penalty.
Martin sprinted up the sideline and hauled in a pass from Flitz in stride to tie the game 7-7 with 3:51 left before the half.
“That was huge because after our mistakes we knew it was a new ball game,” Flitz said of the first touchdown. “We just cleared our heads and got back to the grind stone.”
Flitz was just getting warmed up.
After the West High defense forced one of its five 3-and-outs of the game, Flitz directed a 10-play, 57-yard touchdown drive in the final 1:41 of the half.
Flitz was 4-for-4 passing for 30 yards and ran for 25 yards on the scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Flitz to Lane with 5 seconds left in the half.
The junior quarterback completed 11-of-12 passes for 124 yards and two scores in the first half.
“I had the Dome adrenaline running through me,” Flitz said. “Our weapons on the outside got open and I got some easy completions and it really calmed me down.”
West High put the game away in the third quarter.
The Trojans opened the third quarter with their best drive of the game, a 6-play, 71-yard march that featured a 56-yard strike from Flitz to junior Traevis Buchanan.
Oliver Martin escapes a defender. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.
Lane capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run that put West High up 21-7.
West got the ball right back when Nathan Dill pounced on a fumble at the Washington 25 yard line on the ensuing kickoff.
Seven plays later Lane scored on another 2-yard run to make it 28-7 with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
“I just credit the coaches for their game plan and have us keep the ball in our possession for as long as possible,” Lane said. “Guys were doing their jobs.”
West High recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and didn’t score on the possession but held the ball for all but 1:58 of the second quarter.
The Trojans ran 26 offensive plays in the third quarter to three for the Warriors.
“I’ll never be a coach that goes down saying we played too conservatively,” Hartwig said. “When I lose a game it won’t be because we didn’t give it our shots.”
Martin capped the scoring with a 22-yard touchdown grab on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The senior receiver outjumped a Washington defender before turning the ball up field and going untouched to the end zone.
Martin finished with eight receptions for 117 yards and now has a touchdown reception in seven straight games.
“I felt like I could get behind them running deep balls and Evan made good throws,” Martin said. “He was big for us.”
Flitz finished 19-of-24 through the air and also ran for 23 yards while Lane had 61 rushing yards on 17 carries.
After failing to get points on its first three possessions West High scored on four straight in the second and third quarter.
“We prepared really well this week and came out and got in our way in the first half,” Flitz said. “But we changed the momentum and really got clicking.”
West High CR Washington
First downs 17 10
Rushes-yards 37-121 30-90
Passing yards 256 56
Total yards 377 146
Comp-att-int 19-25-0 11-24-1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-20 5-35
West High 0 14 14 7 – 35
CR Washington 7 0 0 0 – 7
CRW – Ian Thomas 1 run (Andrew Hammer kick)
ICW – Oliver Martin 34 pass from Evan Flitz (Lucas Karwal kick)
ICW – Devontae Lane 3 pass from Flitz (Karwal kick)
ICW – Lane 2 run (Karwal kick)
ICW – Lane 2 run (Karwal kick)
ICW – Martin 22 pass from Flitz (Karwal kick)
Rushing – ICW: Devontae Lane 17-61, Breyton McDole 8-24, Evan Flitz 6-23, Cole Mabry 1-9, Andre White 4-6, Team 1-(-2). CRW: Ian Thomas 20-83, Drew Dostal 2-18, O’Rien Vance 1-4, Connor Malcolm 1-1, Ben Nassi 1-1, Bryan Kunde 5-(-17).
Passing – ICW: Evan Flitz 19-25-0 256, Ethan Postler 0-1-0 0. CRW: Bryan Kunde 10-22-1 56, Drew Dostal 0-2-0 0.
Receiving – ICW: Oliver Martin 8-117, Traevis Buchanan 4-109, Austin West 3-13, Dillon Doyle 2-11, Devontae Lane 2-6. CRW: Drew Dostal 2-22, Reese Barton 2-9, Nick Bjornsen 2-8, Keiyon Smith-Allen 1-15, Connor Malcolm 1-1, Rane Weiland 1-1, Ian Thomas 1-0.