Devontae Lane runs against Cedar Rapids Washington in the 4A semifinals on Nov. 11. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The year 1999 means the same thing to Blake Ealy that it does to many of his West High teammates.
“I was born in 1999,” Ealy said. “That’s about all I know about it.”
At West High, 1999 is marked in Trojan football lore.
West High won the third championship in school history and second of back-to-back 4A titles in 1999.
It makes sense that Ealy and the rest of the current Trojans don’t know much about the 1999 championship team that capped the third unbeaten season in five years for West High.
Ealy and his teammates were in diapers not helmets and shoulder pads when West High edged Cedar Falls 28-21 in overtime for the 4A crown in 1999.
On Friday, Ealy and the Trojans get a chance to add their own chapter to the West High history books.
17 years after its last state title, West High (10-2) will play for the 4A crown again when it faces second-ranked West Des Moines Dowling (11-1) at 7:06 p.m. in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“17 years, that is when we were born, it’s just crazy to believe,” West High senior linebacker Max Brown said. “Early in the season people were thinking about us not even going to the state playoffs and now we are here.”
The 1999 title capped a dominating five-year run for West High that was capped by the Trojans winning 26 consecutive games and back-to-back titles.
West High’s return to the state title game has come in the unlikeliest of fashions.
The Trojans lost back-to-back games to City High and Cedar Rapids Prairie in weeks four and five needed four consecutive wins to end the regular season just to reach the playoffs as the District 8 runner-up.
“After Prairie we knew that one loss and we were done for the season so that kind of changed our attitude,” West High senior offensive tackle Alex Kleinow said. “We are just executing what we’ve been taught to do.”
Once West High reached the playoffs the Trojans proved they belonged.
Unranked West High has won three consecutive games away from home over top-six opponents and all by at least a touchdown to return to the state title game.
West High upset fifth-ranked Bettendorf on the road in its playoff opener, avenged a regular season loss at No. 6 Prairie in the quarterfinals before thumping fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Washington 35-7 in its first semifinal appearance since 2002.
“It’s been a long time, we are making history and it’s an amazing run right now,” Ealy said. “This whole playoff it’s been like that where we are the underdog, people aren’t expecting us to win these games, and that’s fine with us.”
The Trojans haven’t looked much like underdogs the past three weeks but the role has fit just fine.
West High fills the underdog role again in Friday’s title game against three-time defending 4A champion Dowling.
“We love being the underdog, we love being overlooked and we love proving everybody wrong,” Brown said. “I think that is what really drives us at the end of the day. I just want to surprise people and I think that’s what we’ve wanted to do since the beginning of the season and I think we’ve done it.”
West High demonstrated once again it the semifinals it is not to be taken lightly.
The Trojans outgained Washington 382 to 146 while running its winning streak to seven straight.
West High is averaging 32.3 points and 393 total yards per game in the playoffs while holding opponents to 15 points and 236 yards of offense.
“We respect every team that we play but we also refuse to go into a locker room at the end of the game and say I wish we would have done this,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “We leave it all out of the field.”