Your Prep Sports
Cedar Rapids Kennedy (2-2) at City High (2-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Frank Bates Field
With the prep football season approaching or at the halfway point big games begin to take on even bigger meaning with the postseason looming a month away.
This matchup of Mississippi Valley Conference rivals and Eastern Iowa powers certainly falls into the big game category.
Both City High (2-2) and Cedar Rapids Kennedy (2-2) have won back-to-back games after starting the season 0-2 against challenging schedules.
And both programs have challenging games remaining including a game with unbeaten Bettendorf.
Friday isn’t a must win for these teams to reach the 5A playoffs however a loss certainly shrinks the margin for error over the final four weeks.
Players to Watch
There isn’t a much more difficult situation for a quarterback to make his first two career starts than the one City High junior Bobby Bacon found himself in.
Bacon made his first career start in place of injured senior Drew Larson on the road at Ames and a week later found himself in the pressure cooker of the Battle for the Boot rivalry.
All Bacon has done the past two weeks is complete 72 percent of his passes (34-47) for 478 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception while rushing for two scores.
It’s tough to ask for a better two starts than what Bacon has delivered.
The most challenging task for Bacon will come on Friday against an always solid and well-coached Kennedy defense.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy
When defending Cedar Rapids Kennedy it can become easy to get caught up in stopping the run, which is an important piece of slowing the Cougar offense.
That is also when senior receiver Cyrus Coutney becomes extra dangerous.
Regardless of where the defensive attention is focused Courtney is always a big-play threat.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Courtney ranks second in Class 5A with 35 receptions and leads 5A with 661 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Courtney is averaging 18.9 yards per catch and must be accounted for on every snap.
Keys to the Game
Last week the key to the game for City High in this very article was ‘run the ball’.
The Little Hawks outgained West High on the ground on their way to the third consecutive win in the Boot series.
City High needs to run the ball this week but it’s less about hammering away at a stout Kennedy defense and more about being balanced.
In losses to Joliet Catholic and Liberty High the Little Hawks averaged only 75 rushing yards per game and played from behind, allowing opponents to key in on the pass.
With Bobby Bacon making his third career start the Little Hawks need to continue to keep defenses guessing with Miles Parlet-led running game that has averaged 228 yards per game the last two weeks.
City High doesn’t need a 200-yard game from Parlet on Friday to get a win but they will need the threat of the running game to keep Cedar Rapids Kennedy honest.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy
Find what works.
In past years Kennedy has been a team known for its power running game.
Junior quarterback Vincenzo Gianforte has changed that a bit with his ability to throw the ball (1,181 yards, 13 touchdowns).
However, the Cougars have been a multi-faceted offense this season running for 200 yards last week against Cedar Rapids Washington and throwing for 482 in a loss to Pleasant Valley in week two.
The key for the Cougars on Friday will be sticking to what works against an improving City High defense.
City High allowed 374 and 154 rushing yards in losses to Joliet Catholic and Liberty High but has clamped down the past two weeks allowing an average of 75 yards on the ground in back-to-back wins.
The game inside the game for Kennedy on Friday will be identifying where they want to attack on offense.
Play a clean game.
It’s pretty simple, in a game that looks like it should be even on paper the team that makes the fewest mistakes gives itself the best chance to win.
Last week City High had 12 penalties for 120 yards in a win over West High. Those will be hard numbers to overcome on Friday.
Weather could be a factor with the chance for rain, or at the very least a wet field.
Not only turnovers lost but mishandled exchanges, bad snaps or miscues on special teams can result in points off the board or hidden yardage lost.
Whichever team stays cleanest on what could be a messy night will likely walk away with a win.