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CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Prairie Coach Mark Bliss has methods to determine the size and strength of his players.
The one advantage his Hawks have over opponents can’t be measured by height, weight and bench presses. So throw out the “eye-candy” test when it comes down to heart and will.
“If you actually see us, we’re not very big,” Bliss said. “We feel like we’re the smallest team on our schedule. Somehow, some way, they find a way. They have grit. They are just scrappy and have unbelievable hearts.”
Joe Meyer rushed for five touchdowns and Class 4A ninth-ranked Prairie won its sixth straight game, rolling Linn-Mar, 49-14, Friday night at John Wall Field. Meyer rushed for 155 yards, helping the Hawks to 382 yards on the ground.
The intangibles have powered Prairie to a 6-1 overall record and a 3-0 mark in 4A District 8. The Hawks have inched ever so close to a playoff berth, eliminating Linn-Mar from contention.
“There’s something about these guys,” Meyer said. “They love this game. They love to win. They put in the work to do it and I’m proud it’s paying off right now.”
Prairie jumped to an early lead, scoring touchdowns on its first three drives that were capped by Meyer’s runs of 15, 1 and 12 yards. The second score came one play after a Linn-Mar fumble that the Hawks defense pounced on at the Lions 1.
Prairie tallied a 35-7 halftime lead on a 15-yard TD run from Joah Banks-Berry and another 1-yard score from Meyer in the second quarter.
Meyer and Zach Ganske added touchdowns in the second half. Ganske’s 7-yard score concluded his night, giving him 127 rushing yards on 19 carries.
“They are hard runners,” Bliss said. “They are good in space when given the opportunity and take advantage of it.”
Prairie, which entered the night fourth in 4A scoring offense, added to its average of 40.7 points per game. They have scored 38 or more points in each of the last five and Meyer was quick to praise the offensive line and defense, which held Linn-Mar to 214 yards of total offense.
“The (offensive) line’s blocking is something special. They don’t get a lot of credit for it,” Meyer said. “Our defense, we can’t score that many points if we don’t get the ball as much as we did. They came out and they were stellar tonight.”
The Hawks are on the verge of a playoff berth. Bliss said they started on this goal since last Thanksgiving and have weaved it into their weekly preparation. It all starts with a strong group of seniors.
“They are a phenomenal group of kids,” Bliss said. “They are very mature for their age. They are focused (and) business-like all the time.”
Linn-Mar did get on the board with 1:27 to go before halftime. Reese Phillips hit Josh Gassmann for a 29-yard TD. Gassmann finished with five catches for 76 yards.
The Lions’ Brennan McGaffee added a 29-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. He finished with 74 rushing yards to lead the Lions (2-5, 1-2).
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