Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – As West High football players walked out of the locker room in single file Friday night, heads were bowed and tears were streaming down their faces.
For the third consecutive season, the Trojans won’t be part of the Class 5A postseason.
Despite a valiant comeback in the regular-season finale, West High dug itself too big of a hole in a 45-38 setback to Cedar Rapids Prairie at Trojan Field.
“We had a lot of fight,” Trojan junior quarterback Jack Wallace said. “It is a testament to our seniors.”
Still, the result was tough to stomach.
West High needed a win in one of its final two games against Pleasant Valley or Prairie to extend its season.
It was tied in the fourth quarter at PV last week before stumbling, 38-25, and nearly overcame a 27-point deficit in the second half on its senior night.
The Trojans finished 4-5 and 19th in the Ratings Percentage Index used by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
The top 16 qualify for the playoffs.
“These guys poured their heart and soul into this and it just didn’t go our way,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “We just made too many mistakes.”
West High compiled 580 yards of offense, doubled Prairie in first downs, 30-15, and had 26 more offensive snaps than the Hawks.
However, Prairie (5-4) feasted on explosive plays.
Tailback Casey Kelley erupted for 255 rushing yards, including touchdown runs of 53 and 91 yards.
Prairie also had 85 and 92-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns from T.Y. Pour and Kelley in the final 20 seconds of the second quarter and the opening kickoff of the third period to grab a 35-8 cushion.
The win secured a playoff spot for the Hawks, who played without starting quarterback and 1,400-yard passer Will Phillips because of injury.
“The stuff that this team had to overcome is crazy,” Kelley said. “I feel like we had the hardest schedule in 5A, and we got a new coach (Kyle Knock) really, really late in the summer.
“To sneak into the playoffs at the end and have a chance to take it farther, it means a lot for everybody.”
West High made it interesting.
Behind a career-high 458 passing yards from Wallace and three receivers with more than 100 yards, the Trojans scored four touchdowns in the second half.
Izaiah Loveless hauled in 35 and 61-yard scores to finish with eight receptions for 157 yards. Sophomore Damari Lacy had a 15-yard touchdown catch. Wallace scored on a sneak.
“These dudes do not give up,” West High senior Santana Miller said. “I promise you if we were down 100 (points), we would still not give up. I’ll take that wherever I go from here. These guys taught me a lot of things.”
After Loveless’ second score pulled the Trojans within 38-30 early in the fourth quarter, West High’s defense forced a punt.
The Trojans moved the ball to midfield before turning it over on downs.
Prairie responded with Kelley’s fourth touchdown of the night, a 3-yard run, to take a 45-30 lead with 2:05 left.
Kelley eclipsed 1,200 rushing yards for the season.
“He’s really good,” Hartwig said. “He’s got great balance, great vision and he’s got that burst of speed and is hard to track. He’s a good player.”
Prairie didn’t commit a turnover. West High had three.
“We just had some errors on our side of the ball,” Miller said. “You can’t change or bring those back now. We have a lot of younger guys. They’re going to be some dogs when they’re older, but we had a few too many errors.”
Wallace, who completed 27-of-44 throws to eight receivers, marched West High down the field and scored on a sneak with 42 seconds remaining.
The successful two-point try made it a seven-point contest.
Prairie’s Maurice Turner snatched West High’s ensuing onside kick to seal the game.
The game, in many ways, was a microcosm of the Trojans’ season.
They were good in spurts and not-so-good in others.
“We just have to be more consistent,” Wallace said. “Coming into next year, we’ve got to be more consistent every single game and bring that second-half drive that we did this game.”
Hartwig admitted injuries took a toll on his team this season.
The head coach said the Trojans lost two all-conference defensive linemen (one in camp and one after Week 1).
It had two more defensive linemen and a tight end leave with injuries Friday.
“We always talk about the next man in mentality, but when you lose talent of that caliber, it’s hard,” Hartwig said. “A lot of our losses this year are us continuing to make mistakes.
“There are things I need to reevaluate as a head coach in the offseason to get those corrected the best I can.”
West High returns a good nucleus, led by Wallace, Mason Woods (9 catches, 111 yards Friday) and leading rusher Butali Butali.
The seniors, though, were on Hartwig’s mind afterward.
“This group always brought energy,” Hartwig said. “That might not sound like a lot, but that’s hard to have happen all the time in football.
“I appreciate the fight these guys had, and I hope our underclassmen saw that and will take those lessons with them forward.”
First downs 15 30
Rushes-yards 35-284 32-122
Comp-Att-Int 7-15-0 27-44-2
Passing yards 87 458
Total yards 341 580
Punts-avg. 6-32.8 2-42.5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 13-108 8-90
CR Prairie 7 21 7 10 – 45
West High 0 8 15 15 – 38
CRP – Collin Velky 1 run (Brady Stiffler kick)
CRP – Casey Kelley 53 run (Stiffler kick)
CRP – Kelley 91 run (Stiffler kick)
ICW – Santana Miller 1 run (Ashton Honore run)
CRP – T.Y. Pour 85 kickoff return (Stiffler kick)
CRP – Kelley 92 kickoff return (Stiffler kick)
ICW – Izaiah Loveless 35 pass from Jack Wallace (Adam Salem kick)
ICW – Damari Lacy 15 pass from Wallace (Zion Shaw pass from Wallace)
CRP – FG Stiffler 31
ICW – Loveless 61 pass from Wallace (Salem kick)
CRP – Kelley 3 run (Stiffler kick)
ICW – Wallace 1 run (Wallace run)
RUSHING – CR Prairie: Casey Kelley 26-255, Denzil Green 1-34, Collin Velky 3-6, Team 1-(-4), Wyatt Eash 4-(-7). West: Jack Wallace 8-47, Santana Miller 4-38, Ashton Honore 8-35, Marquise Rose 2-4, Butali Butali 7-3, Todd Rent 3-(-5).
PASSING – CR Prairie: Eash 7-15-0, 87 yards. West: Wallace 27-44-2, 458 yards.
RECEIVING – CR Prairie: Velky 2-36, T.Y. Pour 2-24, Green 2-15, Kelley 1-12. West: Izaiah Loveless 8-157, Mason Woods 9-111, Erik Caperon 3-108, Butali 2-36, Damari Lacy 1-15, Nick Caylor 1-11, Rent 1-10, Mason Goering 1-7, Honore 1-3.