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IOWA CITY, Iowa - They were outplayed for a considerable amount of this one, but the Iowa City High Little Hawks found a way. Just like they always seem to.
Win number 22 in a row didn't come easily for the defending Class 4A state champions. It took three touchdowns in a fourth-quarter rally, in fact, for No. 2 City High to overcome No. 6 Linn-Mar, 47-32, last night at Bates Field in an exquisite battle of unbeatens.
"We're giving them credit. Linn-Mar is a good football team. That's obvious," said City High Coach Dan Sabers. "We came back after getting down there in the second half and put together some drives that we needed to."
Quarterback Mark Atwater's 7-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run gave Linn-Mar (7-1) a 32-26 edge going to the final quarter of this beauty, but it was all City High in the fourth. Andrew McNulty's 1-yard TD sneak and the ensuing extra point by shaky sophomore kicker Drew Cornwell put the Little Hawks back up, 33-32.
Pass interceptions by Jeremy Johnson and McNulty led to two more touchdowns that allowed City High (8-0) to escape.
"This was a fun game to play in," said City High running back Cedric Readus, whose 4-yard TD run with 1:18 left officially put this one away. "We learned a lot about ourselves tonight. We've got to play four quarters, the whole four quarters. Just keep going strong."
Atwater had another strong two-way game at QB and linebacker for Linn-Mar, running for two touchdowns and throwing another. But all three of his interceptions led to City High scores.
The Little Hawks were definitely opportunistic. They also got a 90-yard kickoff return for touchdown from Readus and scored after a seven-yard punt gave them the ball at the Lion 29.
Linn-Mar actually outgained City High by a 279-240 margin, rallying from a 26-10 second-quarter hole. Jer Garman finished with 139 yards rushing and a touchdown on 27 carries for the Lions.
All but 23 of City High's yards came via the ground, as you'd expect from a team that runs two tight ends regularly. The Little Hawks' belief in their rushing attack was evident late in the game when they converted a 4th-and-2 at the Linn-Mar 45 while nursing an eight-point lead.
Readus ran for four yards and the first down and eventually the touchdown.
"I just don't like punting," Sabers said. "That play scares me. Our strength is our power running.
"And, boy, a 4th-and-2 is still tough for people to stop."