City High Heading to 4A Finals After Beating Bettendorf, 21-7
By Jeff Johnson, Reporter
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Connor Alberhasky is only 17 years old, otherwise you'd advise him to run to the nearest convenience store and buy a lottery ticket. Or 50 of them.
"The luckiest play of my life," the Iowa City High receiver said of the decisive moment of his team's 21-7 win over Bettendorf in Friday's Class 4A state football playoff semifinals at the UNI-Dome.
With City High nursing a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Alberhasky ran up to field a short punt in Bettendorf territory but had the football bounce off his forearm. It was a muff that had game-changing turnover written all over it, only it turned out to be game changing the other way.
The fumble bounced forward five yards and directly into the hands of alert teammate Jasper Washington, who ran untouched 61 yards for a touchdown. The believe-it-or-not play made it a 14-point game and all but put the second-ranked Little Hawks (13-0) into next Friday's 4A championship against West Des Moines Dowling (12-0)/Ankeny (9-3).
"That gave us a big boost," Washington said. "After that play, they didn't score again. It was definitely like a steam-roller effect."
"At first, I thought I saw one of their guys pick it up and run it the other way," said Alberhasky, who was sprawled on his stomach. "Then I kind of sat up slowly, ended up looking down the field and saw we were running it in for a touchdown."
Hey, sometimes you need to be fortunate, as well as good. Call City High both in this case.
"I never tell the other coach good luck. I just say 'Have a good game,'" said Little Hawks Coach Dan Sabers. "Because sometimes you get bounces your way, and that was one of them, no question about that."
Don't get the idea this 27th-consecutive victory was all luck. Far from it.
City High played a strong defensive game and rallied from a 7-0 hole late in the second quarter to give No. 4 Bettendorf (12-1) its first loss. The Little Hawks got a 43-yard TD run from Cedric Readus off an option pitch right before halftime, then went on a prodigious, 14-play, 90-yard, seven-minute drive late in the third quarter that put it ahead for good.
The drive – capped by fullback Adam Pribyl's 3-yard touchdown – was the first time City High was able to consistently run the ball at a quick and powerful Bettendorf defense that came in giving up a 4A-best 4.5 points a game. The Little Hawks went into a compact, two tight-end look and pounded, pounded, pounded.
"We just had the momentum," said Washington. "We kind of hit them in the heart and just kept going."
"I thought the drive right before the end of the first half was probably the most important one," Sabers said. "That got our juices going good. They kind of came out and did some good things strategically that we needed to adjust to and the coach needed to do a better job of adjusting to. Our kids hung in there ..."
Readus finished with 139 yards rushing on 24 attempts, getting the vast majority of the carries because of the suspension of leading rusher and second-leading tackler Ronald Thompson for what Sabers said was a violation of district policy. Sabers said "probably not" when asked if he expected Thompson back next week.
"The o-line just told me not to worry," Readus said. "They had my back on that. They just told me to keep running hard, keep churning my legs, and that's what I did."
Bettendorf actually outgained City High by a scant 259-257 margin, but the Bulldogs never were able to put anything together offensively. Even their TD – a 1-yard pass from Nick Heimendinger to Gage Ridenour – came on a possession that began at the Little Hawks 38 after a City High punt from deep in its end zone.
"You've heard me say our defense hasn't been what it's needed to be. Tonight our guys really executed well ... Overall I'm just happy with the way they battled."