IOWA CITY, Iowa – Dubuque Senior's dream start came to a nightmarish end, and Iowa City West won't lose any sleep for causing it.
Ezra Reiners powered the second-ranked Trojans, rushing for 159 yards, three touchdowns and helping drop Senior, 42-7, in a battle of Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Valley Division unbeatens Friday night at Trojan Field.
West (5-0, 2-0 MVCM) was up for the challenge of an undefeated foe and a missing cog to its vaunted pass attack with wide receiver Jeremy Morgan hobbled by injury.
"It's a big claim for us," Reiners said. "We wanted to state who we really were.
"Everybody is thinking West High is soft. We're going to throw the ball to the two big guys. We really wanted to set the tone right away and we did that."
The Trojans ran over the Rams (4-1, 1-1 MVCM). They amassed 277 yards on the ground, rushing for all six touchdowns. It was the second straight week West has produced a strong run game.
"Last week, we made a huge stride," said West Coach Brian Sauser, noting the 475-yard team performance in a win over Cedar Rapids Prairie. "We're feeling better and better about the run game."
Sauser had to feel good from the start. West drove 65 yards on eight plays, capping it with a Micah Kelsay 5-yard run less than three minutes into the game.
The Trojans opened things up later in the quarter. West executed a perfect fake punt on 4th-and-8 from its own 40. Jessie Peterson took the direct snap around left end and rumbled 53 yards to set up 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Kelsay scored his second TD of the game, bulling his way in on 4th-and-goal from the 1 to give West a 14-0 lead.
Reiners displayed his athleticism with an impressive 58-yard TD run. The Trojans senior carried around the left side, keeping his feet, bolting down field and fighting off two tacklers the final 10 yards. The score gave the Trojans a three-score lead.
"Play side just got hammered, which is what we need to do," Reiners said. "Our pulling guard sealed it off and they had no answer for it."
The Trojans received a gift toward the end of the first half. A desperate Senior attempted to convert a 4th-and-2 deep in its own territory. West stuffed quarterback Austin Clemens for a loss and took over on the Rams' 27, needing seven plays to take a 28-0 lead into the half. Reiners dove across the goal line from five yards out with :08 left in the second.
Senior couldn't break through the West defense. The Rams gained yards at times, but didn't really threaten until late in the fourth when the game was decided.
"I thought our defense played its best game of the year," Sauser said. "Dubuque Senior is a good football team. They are right there with the top teams in the conference. They've made huge strides as a program."
Reiners added a 28-yard run early in the second half to give West a 35-0 lead and start a continuous clock. He rushed around the left end, making a sharp cutback to reach the end zone.
He certainly proved his shoulders are big enough if West's fate rests on them.
"Pound for pound, he's our toughest guy," Sauser said of Reiners. "He never wants to come off the field. It's hard to say enough god things about him."
Devin Raffensperger added 46 rushing yards for West, while Clay Moel rushed for a 36-yard TD late in the fourth for the Trojans' final score.
Morgan, who suffered a foot injury last week, suited up, but didn't play on offense. He took the field for kickoff recovery. Reid Bonner started in his place, catching five passes for 49 yards. Dondre Alexander led the team with 66 yards on six receptions. Quarterback Nate Boland was 12 of 22 for 119 yards.
Sauser said Morgan could have played if needed. The Trojans have been banged up and they welcomed the break.
"The game plan really was trying to go in there, get up and let that clock run and get our guys out," Sauser said.
Alex Duster led the Rams, running for 132 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown with 4:48 remaining. Austin Clemens threw for 81 yards, including 51 to Keegan Gallery.