Your Prep Sports
A memorable prep football season came to an end with the completion of the final three state championship games on Friday.
For some the 2020 season will be memorable for the obstacles caused by the impact of the global coronavirus.
Hopefully for many coaches, athletes and fans the season will be remembered positively as area teams had the opportunity to compete in a season many feared would never happen.
Once again the Your Prep Sports area featured some of the best players and teams in the state.
Regina capped the season with its seventh state title in the past 11 years, rolling to the Class A crown with back-to-back dominant performances in the UNI-Dome.
We take a look at some of the best moments, performances and plays from a 2020 season unlike any other before it.
Best Individual offensive performance: Marcus Morgan against Cedar Rapids Kennedy. In a career filled with stellar individual performances this was perhaps the best ever for the West High quarterback. Morgan completed 17-of-20 passes for 394 yards and a school-record tying five touchdowns in a 48-21 win.
Best individual offensive performance part II: Theo Kolie against Lisbon. Kolie has had a bunch of big games this season but the Regina senior running back was at his best in a 56-26 win over the tenth-ranked Lions rushing for 204 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries and catching four passes for 99 yards.
Best individual defensive performance: Kaleb Sexton against Wilton. West Branch went on the road in week four needing someone to step up on defense as it looked to snap a two-game losing skid. The Bears got both as Sexton had the best game of his career with seven tackles, 5 solo including 2.5 sacks, and picked off a pass in a 43-8 win.
Best individual offensive play: Alec Wick against Grundy Center. Wick has a senior year highlight tape filled with plays that could go in this spot but his toe-tapping, sideline grab in the state final win over Grundy Center was as good as it gets. (Special honorable mention to Wick’s one-handed 27-yard touchdown grab in a regular season win over Wapello).
Best individual defensive play: Jeff Bowie against Mediapolis. Bowie is another player with a mountain of individual efforts that could go in this spot. His one-handed decleating stop of Mediapolis speedster Anthony Isley in the playoffs was an as impressive combination of explosive closing speed and strength.
Best individual special teams play: Grahm Goering against City High. Goering gave West High the momentum early in a 56-20 win in the Battle for the Boot when he returned the opening kick off 99 yards for a touchdown. Outside of setting the tone for a rivalry win, the return itself was impressive as Goering exploded up the middle of the field, broke several takes and used a stiff arm to break free.
Best team offensive performance: Regina against Grundy Center. The Regals truly saved their best for last putting up a season-high 534 yards in the Class A state title game. Regina set Class A championship game records for total yards and points (52) had got individual records for rushing touchdowns (5) from Theo Kolie and receiving yards (226) from Alec Wick.
Best team offensive performance II: West High against City High. Speaking of the Battle for the Boot, West High picked the perfect time for one of its best offensive performances in recent season. West High has had games with more total yards but was impressively efficient in a 56-20 win, averaging 11.7 yards per play while putting up 409 total yards.
Best team defensive performance: West Branch vs. Durant. The Bears held Durant standout running back Nolan DeLong who entered leading Class 1A with 223 yards per game to a season-low 20 yards on 13 carries and limited the Wildcats to 235 total yards and just 57 rushing yards in a 28-21 win.
Best clutch performance: Ashton Cook against Wapsie Valley. When you need a late touchdown drive to keep your season alive it helps to have a senior quarterback that’s a three-year starter like Regina does. Senior Ashton Cook led a late touchdown drive to lift Regina to a 32-27 quarterfinal win over Wapsie Valley but was sensational all game, completing 18-of-23 passes for 240 yards and a score and running for 74 more yards and a touchdown.
Most timely performance: Anthony Hennes against Newton. Playing for the first time since the death of his father Mike six days earlier Hennes played perhaps the best game of his prep career posting a team-high seven tackles including five solo stops and a sack to help Clear Creek Amana to a 41-14 win over Newton. Hennes also made five PATs in the win that ended with Clear Creek Amana taking a knee on an extra point to preserve the 41 points, the number Mike Hennes wore during his playing days.
Best bounce back performance: Gavin Hierseman against Wilton. A week after throwing two interceptions including a pick-six in a loss to Cascade the West Branch senior quarterback bounced back in impressive fashion going 16-of-22 through the air for 254 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 31 yards in a 43-8 road win.
Biggest game changing play: Luke Meyers vs. City High. Few plays shifted a game this season the way Meyer did with his pick-six against the Little Hawks. Trailing 17-7 with under eight minutes to play Meyers returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown helping Liberty High outscored City High 21-7 in the second half.
Best game: Regina against Clear Lake. Regina swapped out an opponent with COVID concerns for a team from a larger class for the second week in a row, travelled nearly three hours to Clear Lake then won a thriller over the Lions with a two-point conversion stop in the final minute. Regina scored three second-half touchdowns to overcome a 6-0 halftime deficit and secured the win by stuffing a two-point conversion run with 55 seconds left.
Best Finish: Liberty High against City High. Sophomore quarterback Tye Hughes capped a 68-yard game-winning drive and a Liberty High comeback with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5.6 seconds to lift the Lightning to a 28-24 win. The game-winning touchdown came after Liberty High recovered its own fumble on the previous play.
Breakthrough offensive performer: Solon senior receiver Colton Hoffman. Hoffman caught eight passes for 54 yards as a junior but quickly emerged as the top threat in the Spartan passing attack this season leading the team with 29 receptions for 678 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Breakthrough defensive performer: Liberty High junior linebacker Griffin Kraft. Kraft quickly established himself as one of the most productive linebackers in Class 4A this season leading the Lightning with 50.5 tackles in his first varsity season. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Kraft averaged better than 10 tackles per game and had five for loss and posted three games with 11.5 stops.
Most versatile: Clear Creek Amana junior Ben Swails. If it needs to be done a football field Swails likely did it this season. The multitasking Swails passed for 169 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 40 yards and a score and caught four passes for 36 yards. On defense Swails had 14 tackles, led the Clippers with six interceptions and recovered a fumble. Swails also averaged 42.5 yards on 22 punts.
Coach of the year: Garrett Hartwig. Every coaching staff in the state faced obstacles in a season unlike any before but what Hartwig and his West High staff did this fall defied logic. Despite going three weeks without organized practice West High won six consecutive games to advance to the Class 4A quarterfinals. That stretch included a road win at top-10 ranked Dubuque Senior in the game back from a three-week break after just five days of practice.
Offensive Newcomer of the year: West High senior Trey King. King was impressive in his only season as the West High feature back rushing for a team-high 556 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. King was also a factor in the passing game catching 14 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive newcomer of the year: City High sophomore Ben Kueter. Among the best wrestlers in the state, Kueter had an immediate impact on the football field in his first varsity season tying for the team lead in tackles from his inside linebacker spot. Kueter made 41.5 tackles in six games, including 31 solo stops and three tackles for loss and also had an interception and recovered a fumble.
Biggest under the radar impact: Regina junior lineman Josh Gaffey. One of the biggest reasons Regina won its first state title since 2015 was the play of Gaffey up front. A force on both sides of the ball, Gaffey has 36.5 tackles and has helped Regina average 192 rushing yards per game.
Unsung hero: West High junior defensive lineman Mason Applegate. On a team that saw the offense garner most of the attention Applegate put together a big-time season on the defensive line leading the Trojans with 12.5 tackles for loss to go with two sack and finished with 32.5 total tackles.
Most durable: City High junior Gable Mitchell. There are plenty of two-ways players that contribute on both offense and defense but you will be hard pressed to find a player that spends more time on the field on a Friday night than Mitchell. Mitchell threw a touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown and caught 15 passes for a team-high 285 yards and three touchdowns. A starter on defense Mitchell tied for the team lead in tackles with 41.5 and had an interception. Mitchell was also the primary punt and kick return for City High and handled the punting duties for the Little Hawks.
Offensive MVP: West High senior quarterback Marcus Morgan. A three-year starter, Morgan simply stepped it up to another level in his final prep season. Morgan completed 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,662 yards and 17 touchdowns with four interceptions in seven games. He also rushed for 213 yards and six touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: Solon senior linebacker Carson Shive. The plan for success this season for Solon was built around a strong defense and Shive was the unquestioned leader on that side of the ball for the Spartans. Shive led Solon in total tackles (78), solo stops (58) and tackles for loss (12) and also had four sacks and recovered two fumbles.