Your Prep Sports
City High (0-0) vs. Liberty High (0-0)
When: Friday, 7:15 p.m.
Where: Kinnick Stadium
Is there a better way to kick off the high school football season than this?
Prep football returns to Kinnick Stadium for the first time in more than 40 years as cross-town rivals City High and Liberty High meet at in the first “Clash at Kinnick”.
The venue itself makes Friday night’s season-opener historic but toss in the fact it is a pair of Iowa City schools that have developed a nice rivalry in their short history of games and this becomes one of the most anticipated games of the season around the state.
Expect an enormous crowd for this one in what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many players.
There is intrigue in the matchup as well.
City High snapped a two-game losing skid to Liberty High with an emphatic 41-0 win last season in the debut of head coach Mitch Moore.
Last year’s win over Liberty High was the largest margin of victory in the history of the rivalry that now sits at 2-2 and propelled the Little Hawks to a 6-0 start to the season.
Liberty High would like to use Friday’s meeting as a similar springboard under second-year head coach James Harris after starting 0-5 a year ago.
Players to Watch
Senior Christian Barney is a big-time playmaker on both sides of the ball and needs to be heavily involved in the game plan for the Lightning on Friday.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Barney does his best work on defense as a hard-hitting linebacker that ranked second on the team with 57.5 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss and led the Lightning with 2.5 sacks a year ago.
On offense Barney is a matchup problem as a receiver with the speed to excel in the opening field (19.3 yards per catch) and the size to make contested catches in traffic (three touchdowns).
This game will likely be the first of many appearances at Kinnick Stadium for City High senior standout and Iowa commit Ben Kueter.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Kueter will wrestle and play football at Iowa and has established himself as one of the most decorated athletes in Iowa state history winning a U20 World Championship in wrestling earlier this month.
On the football field Kueter can do it all.
He led 5A in tackles (101), tackles for loss (41) and sacks (11.5) last season and had 10 offensive touchdowns and is expected to be a bigger part of the offensive game plan this season.
Keys to the Game
City High – Run the ball
The Little Hawks were good on the ground last season averaging better than 212 rushing yards per game including 240 in a week-one win over Liberty High.
Quite a few pieces of the City High run game from last season are gone including four starters on the offensive line and 1,000-yard rusher Darren Richardson.
Senior Ronnie Major steps in at running back and has the speed to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
Major rushed for 92 yards and had a 53-yard touchdown in the win over Liberty High last season.
With a rebuilt offensive line and a new-look backfield look for City High to test the waters of its running game early on Friday.
Liberty High – Protect the QB
City High had three sacks and an interception in last year’s win over Liberty High generally making life difficult for quarterback Tye Hughes.
For the second consecutive year the Lightning will be breaking in a new quarterback against City High as junior Graham Beckman takes over under center.
Beckman has the size (6-1, 193) and speed to be a major contributor in the Lightning run game but the first order of business on Friday will be giving Beckman time to operate.
Liberty High brings back three starters on the offensive line and has seen the unique defensive scheme City High runs – unlike a year ago.
Those should add up to an improved performance for the Liberty High offensive line against a City High defense that is among the most aggressive in the state at brining pressure.
Both teams – A Clean First Quarter
How is this for a perfect storm for early jitters?
A season opener, against a major rival, in a totally unfamiliar venue in front of a huge crowd in a once-in-a-lifetime type of event.
That is the situation both teams face on Friday.
There will always be nerves which lead to mistakes, often early mistakes in the first game of the season.
In a rivalry game, at Kinnick Stadium in front of a large crowd the emotions will be running at an all-time high which can also lead to miscues.
Playing a clean, relatively mistake free first quarter would be huge for either team.
City High jumped to an early 21-0 lead in the first quarter last season largely by taking advantage of Liberty High miscues.
Whichever team can handle the unique situation better early could have an advantage.