Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – City High coach Dan Sabers had just finished addressing his team following Friday’s 41-16 playoff victory over Ottumwa when his players sprinted to midfield to celebrate on the school logo.
The scene was dramatically different from the previous Friday when Sabers had to console his players following a devastating loss to Liberty High.
“They had a pretty good week overall and I was pretty proud of how they responded,” Sabers said of his players. “We had a very good week. The guys got excited. They begged me to get the black jerseys back out, so I said, ‘alright, we’re going to do whatever the hell we have to and they came out and did a great job with it.”
City High improved to 2-3 on the season, while Ottumwa finished winless in seven games.
The Little Hawks will face undefeated West High next Friday at West. The Trojans, behind senior quarterback Marcus Morgan, won the Battle for the Boot in early September by a 56-20 margin.
“There’s no question they’re good,” Sabers said of West. “There’s just no doubt about it.
“I mean Kennedy has got a solid program, a solid club, and they just took them apart. Morgan’s unbelievable and they’ve got some good supporting cast and their defense is really coming on. So we’ve got our hands full. But I can tell the kids, it’s a crazy game, so we’re certainly going to show up.”
Sabers was referring to West High’s 48-21 victory over Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the regular-season finale last Friday.
“Obviously, West High is a really good team,” said City High senior quarterback Raph Hamilton. “Marcus is doing a great job back there.
“But we believe in what we can do and we’ll have to have a really good week of practice and everything. But we believe in ourselves and what we can do.”
City High used a potent and deep rushing attack to wear down Ottumwa’s defense.
Junior running back Joey Bouska led the ground attack with 137 rushing yards, while the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Hamilton finished with 97 yards on the ground on just nine carries.
Most of Hamilton’s yards came on quarterback sneaks where he used his size and strength to plow over defenders.
In fact, City High’s first touchdown came on a 15-yard run by Hamilton on a quarterback sneak with 9 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter.
“In the offseason and last year we just talked about that’s just going to have to be one of our main plays,” Hamilton said. “The line in front is doing a great job taking care of the defensive linemen and then it’s just up to me to get past the linebackers in that second level.
“But the guys up front are just busting their butts and doing a great job.”
City High expanded its lead to 14-0 on a 2-yard run by senior fullback Joe Bacon, followed by Kongalo Mwenemkamba’s point-after kick with 11:15 left in the second quarter.
But then Ottumwa answered with a 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown catch by senior Colton McKinnon with six minutes left before halftime.
The Little Hawks then answered back with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Hamilton to junior Gable Mitchell with 1:15 left in the second quarter.
Mitchell’s touchdown gave City High a 20-7 lead, and just when it looked as if that would be the score at halftime, McKinnon struck again.
He scored on a 51-yard fake reverse with only 21.4 seconds left in the second quarter, trimming the deficit to 20-14 at halftime and giving the Bulldogs momentum heading into the third quarter.
Ottumwa started the third quarter on offense, but had to punt after gaining just one first down.
City High then responded with a 78-yard scoring drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown run by Bouska with 5:45 left in the third quarter.
Bacon then scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run to give the Little Hawks a 35-14 lead with 8:04 left in the fourth quarter.
Junior Paul Waikel scored City High’s final points by returning a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown with 49.8 seconds remaining.
City High finished with 351 rushing yards and had eight players who carried at least once. Sophomore fullback Ben Kueter complemented Bouska with 58 rushing yards on eight carries.
The Little Hawks have struggled to execute during a season filled with uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“I think we’ve said it all along, we’ve kind of beaten ourselves in some games with turnovers and just mistakes,” Hamilton said. “And so to come out tonight, it wasn’t perfect, but we played a lot better and executed.
“So to win a playoff game, no matter what, that’s a big deal. I thought it was a really good team effort.”
Hamilton could sense during practice leading up to Friday’s game that his team would be ready. The 28-24 loss to Liberty was tough to overcome, but the players used it as motivation.
“It was definitely a very tough loss,” Hamilton said of the Liberty game. “Back and forth game and we were up at halftime. But I felt like we responded in this week of practice and guys just really came together as a team. It felt like there was a cohesive group.”
First downs 14 23
Rushes-yards 39-239 51-351
Passing yards 35 72
Punts-avg 3-42.3 0-0.0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 2-10 4-20
Ottumwa 0 14 0 2 – 16
City High 7 13 8 13 – 41
ICH – Raph Hamilton 15 run (Kongalo Mwenemkamba kick)
ICC – Joe Bacon 2 run (Mwenemkamba kick)
OTT – Colton McKinnon 16 pass from Adam Denniston (Bryan Carapia kick)
ICH – Gable Mitchell 21 pass from Hamilton (kick failed)
OTT – McKinnon 51 run (Carapia kick)
ICH – Joey Bouska 11 run (Hamilton run)
ICH – Bacon 1 run (Mwenemkanba kick)
OTT – Ball recovered in end zone for safety
ICH – Paul Waikel 36 fumble return (Fick failed)
RUSHING – Ottumwa: Kie Glosser 23-121, Andy Palma 11-57, Colton McKinnon 2-51, Adan Denniston 3-10. City High: Joey Bouska 22-137, Raph Hamilton 9-97, Ben Kueter 8-58, Joe Bacon 4-24, Gable Mitchell 3-16, Sam Carlson 3-10, Gabe Orris 2-9, Drew Koizumi 1-0.
PASSING –Ottumwa: Adam Denniston 3-12-1 35. City High: Raph Hamilton 7-13-0 72
RECEIVING – Ottumwa: McKinnon 1-16, Trae Swartz 1-12, Andy Palma 1-7. City High: Gable Mitchell 4-50, Kolby Kucera 3-22.