Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – In its postseason rematch with Linn-Mar on Monday City High looked like a totally different team than the one that lost to the Lions 3-1 last month.
Perhaps even more importantly the Little Hawks felt like a different team.
“You know how winning is, winning gives you so much confidence,” City High coach Jose Fajardo said. “When you are losing you think that you are a loser and when you win you think that you are a winner. It gets in your head and that’s how you win games.”
After closing the regular season with four consecutive wins City High picked where it left off in its postseason opener on Monday.
Aaron Rutherford scored in the 23rd minute and Barick Makabi tacked on a goal in the second half as No. 12 City High advanced to the substate finals with a 2-0 win over Linn-Mar in a Class 3A, Substate 3 semifinal in Iowa City.
“We’ve had a couple of big wins, we kind of ended the season strong and got some momentum going and this is a good win we lost to them earlier in the season,” Rutherford said. “Once you get that momentum rolling it just feels different.”
The win was the fifth straight for City High (11-5) and avenged a 3-1 regular season loss to Linn-Mar (10-10) back on April 26 in Marion.
It sends City High into the Substate 3 title game where it will travel to second-ranked Johnston (17-1) on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. contest.
“When you win you see the outcomes and you can visualize it and you can the win, you can see the end product,” Rutherford said. “When you can see the positive end outcome you know you can reach that goal if work together as a team.”
City High controlled things from the outset on Monday.
The Little Hawks had several chances to get on the scoreboard in the opening half and finally took advantage when Rutherford headed in an Emmit Hansen corner kick in the 23rd minute.
“Emmit had played me a couple of other good balls and I had gotten close, I had seen the space and I wanted it and that third time I came in and matched up perfectly it hit my head and went in,” Rutherford said. “I was just attacking the ball and getting contact and getting in on frame. I had to make the goalie do something.”
The loss to Linn-Mar last month was the second time in three games City High had allowed three or more goals.
In the eight matches since that loss to the Lions the Little Hawks have allowed nine total goals and have given up more than one goal in a match just one time.
“We have gotten better defensively we are not giving easy goals as much as we were doing in some games and I think that is a big difference,” Fajardo said. “We said that we are going to create chances because that’s what we do but we also don’t put them away so we need to make sure that we don’t allow goals. As long as we keep a zero there I know that we will have chances because we have a team that is going to create many chances.”
City High was solid defensively all match on Monday posting its fifth shutout of the season and holding Linn-Mar without a goal for the seventh time this season.
“I think we came with a better game plan,” Rutherford said. “We’ve seen them play, we know their players so this game we knew what their dangers were and what our dangers were and we just played with those. We took our chances when we had our chances but we didn’t give up any easy chances which was important.”
City High put the game away when Makabi flipped in a shot in the 71st minute.
Linn-Mar appeared to get on the board with 2:30 remaining but after a conversation between officials a Lion goal was taken away by an offsides call.
During its current five-match winning streak City High has wins over No. 9 Cedar Rapids Prairie and No. 10 Liberty High to go with its win over Linn-Mar.
Next up is a tough task against a Johnston team riding an eight-match winning streak.
Johnston defeated Cedar Rapids Jefferson 10-0 in the other Substate 3 semifinal on Monday.
“The games that we have lost we know that we are very responsible for those losses, all the credit to the other teams, they were there as well but we were very responsible for those losses,” Fajardo said. “When you know that it gives you room for working and improving and I think that is what the team has done.”