Prep Football: Air West Turns to Ground in 2nd Half of Win Over Kennedy
By Jeff Johnson, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS — No doubt they can play pretty. But if Iowa City West wants to achieve the goals it thinks it can this football season, it’s going to have to be able to play a little ugly, too.
That means being physical up front and moving the ball on the ground. Just like it did last night in the second half of a 35-14 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy at Kingston Stadium.
“We weren’t going to throw it,” said West Coach Brian Sauser. “Even if we got stuffed every single play the second half, we were going to run it and run it and run it until our guys made a decision inside. We feel we can throw it most nights all the time. But it really felt like all of a sudden we were becoming soft.”
So much for that soft thing now. West (3-0) ran 25 times in the second half for 122 yards, pulling away from a 21-14 game at the half on a Colin Baker 1-yard plunge and 17-yard catch and run by Jeremy Morgan.
Quarterback Nate Boland threw for 239 first-half yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Trojans, utilizing his deadly receiving combo of Dondre Alexander and Morgan as usual.
But the final two quarters was definitely all about power football.
“The first half, we couldn’t really run the ball,” said tackle Grant Troyer. “We only ran it like (12) times, couldn’t get it going. At halftime, Coach told us if we’re going to win the football game, we’re going to have to run the ball. We got after it the second half and took care of business.”
Much to the chagrin of Kennedy Coach Tim Lewis. The Cougars are known for their physical approach but saw their defense unable to stop tailback Ezra Reiners and fullbacks Colin Baker and Micah Kelsay and their offensive line unable to create holes for back Alex Hillyer.
He carried a whopping 37 times for 176 yards and a TD but was bottled up for just 46 second-half yards.
“They made some adjustments there in the second half. We made a few. I guess there’s were just working,” Hillyer said. “They played pretty tough.”
“They got into our pads and were driving us straight back,” said Kennedy Coach Tim Lewis. “They were getting to our linebackers, then your linebackers can’t pursue. That’s an effective run offense that we’ve got to get figured out.”
West, ranked third in Class 4A, built a 14-0 first-quarter lead on only six offensive plays. Four of the six were sideline bombs to the 6-foot-6 Morgan, who kept beating man-to-man press coverage from Kennedy.
He hauled in a 39-yard TD pass just 1:24 into the game and followed that up with a 42-yarder. Morgan, of course, is a UNI basketball recruit.
“I definitely like that a lot,” he said of the man coverage. “I’m usually taller than most of the corners. When Coach calls that play, my eyes usually get big.”
A ground-only drive got Kennedy within 14-7 late in the first, with Hillyer scoring from 2 yards out. Kelsay’s 1-yard plunge made it 21-7 West in the second quarter, with Kennedy replying with a 5-yard TD pass from Riley Fergus to Joel Smetzer in the closing seconds.
The Cougars play Dubuque Senior next week, in desperate search of a victory.
"The big picture is still there for us," Lewis said.
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