Three-time Champ Dowling a Big Challenge for West High
Will Peterson sacks Washington quarterback Bryan Kunde in the 4A semifinals. Jeff Yorder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Anyone who follows high school football in Iowa knows all about West Des Moines Dowling.
With three consecutive 4A titles and a sparkling 51-2 record over the past four seasons fans, coaches and players from around the state have taken notice of the Maroons’ success.
Count West High players among those who are well aware of the stranglehold Dowling has had over Class 4A the past four years.
“They are a 4A powerhouse,” West High senior linebacker Max Brown said. “What they’ve done over the last few years is crazy.”
On its way to becoming the first 4A school with three consecutive titles Dowling has defeated Cedar Rapids Xavier, Cedar Rapids Washington and Cedar Rapids Kennedy by a combined score of 134-37 in the last three title games.
West High (10-2) is next on the list of Eastern Iowa powers with a shot at dethroning Dowling (11-1) when the two meet Friday at 7:06 on Friday in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“They are certainly the standard in the state but I will continue to say it’s about us and our kids know that,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “Dowling is Dowling and they are the three-time defending state champ for a reason but our kids are excited for this opportunity.”
Most people across the state know how dominant Dowling has been over the past several seasons.
This season the Maroons have outscored opponents by more than 32 points per game and won three playoff games by an average of 27 points.
The recipe for domination for Dowling should look familiar to West High fans. The Maroons possess many of the same strengths of each of the first three playoff opponents for the Trojans.
“It’s scary to say but it’s a combination of what the three playoff opponents we played all do well,” Hartwig said. “On the offensive line they are similar to Bettendorf because they are big and physical. On the defensive side of the ball they are aggressive similar to Cedar Rapids Washington and they run some interesting formations here and there similar to what Prairie does.”
Similar to Bettendorf, which West High defeated 24-17 in the opening round of the playoffs, Dowling relies on big running back and physical offensive line to move the ball.
Led by 220-pound senior tailback Jacob Zachary and an offensive line that ranks among the best in the state Dowling averages 291 rushing yards per game.
Running behind an offensive line that averages 276 pounds across the front five Zachary has rushed for 1,271 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“They definitely have some big guys and we have faced a lot of big teams in our season,” Brown said. “I think that’s going to work out to our advantage, we are a quick team off the ball. We are undersized and we do get overlooked as a defense and I think that works out in our favor.”
The Dowling offense isn’t as unique as the single wing employed by Cedar Rapids Prairie but the numbers for the Maroons have been equally impressive.
Dowling lead 4A in scoring at 42.8 points per game and have scored at least 31 points in every game during their current nine-game win streak.
Like Prairie, which West defeated 38-21 in the quarterfinals, Dowling has the ability to get big plays out of the run game as evidence by its 7 yard per carry average.
“They are good at what they do and that’s run the ball and run the ball and run the ball,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”
Where Dowling has been most impressive during its three-year title run is on defense and that has continued this season.
Dowling enters the state title game holding opponents to 215 total yards and 10.7 points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in a game this season.
This will be the second straight opponent for West High that enters holding opponents under 215 yards per game.
Cedar Rapids Washington was allowing 214 total yards and 14.5 points per game entering the semifinals where West High put up 382 yards in a 35-7 win.
“They have held some great teams to a lot of low scores,” West High junior quarterback Evan Flitz said of Dowling. “So we are going to have to be careful in how we attack them and be precise and execute well.”
The Maroons have been especially stingy against the run holding teams to 73 rushing yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry.
Dowling has allowed more than 100 rushing yards in a game just twice this season and hasn’t given up more than 131 yards rushing.
“They are unbelievable,” Hartwig said. “They are huge, they are well-coached and they are physical.”