Defense, run game carry Iowa City High past Linn-Mar

Little Hawks' Vance Dillon has pair of interceptions on Lions' Reese Phillips, one for a 66-yard return touchdown

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IOWA CITY — It wasn’t the prettiest game Iowa City High football players and followers had ever seen.

In the end, though, wins don’t have to be pretty — they just have to be wins. And the Little Hawks got their season started off with a win against Mississippi Valley Conference foe Linn-Mar at home, 26-6.

City High relied on its ground game and defense, with a pair of touchdowns from senior running -back Bryce Frantz and three interceptions on Linn-Mar quarterback Reese Phillips — the last of which a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown by Vance Dillon to seal the deal.

“No, it wasn’t (the prettiest), but it’s the first game,” said City High head coach Dan Sabers. “I liked our toughness, though. A lot of guys had to play, and we got tougher as we went. They responded, and that makes me feel pretty good.

“I think the defense, once we got a better feel for it — because they weren’t the same team as a year ago; it wasn’t what we prepared for. I think once we got the feel, got our footing under us, we adjusted and did pretty well.”

City High (1-0) had a pair of rushers cross the 100-yard mark in quarterback Nate Wieland and running back Bryce Frantz. Wieland finished with 13 carries for 118 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown run on the Little Hawks’ third play from scrimmage. Frantz was the workhorse, rushing 21 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Sabers was satisfied with the run game, citing City High’s lack of penalties (just three on offense and five total), and his multiple options.

“Bryce did his usual things. He sees the holes so well and makes great cuts,” Sabers said. “And I like the idea at the end where they were really crashing in (to stop Frantz) and Nate was able to get out some. That’s the type of diversity we’ve got to build in.”

The highlight reel plays, though, came on defense for the Little Hawks.

Dillon had two of Phillips’ three interceptions, the first of which came in the end zone, as he was able to snag the ball and get one foot down for the turnover. His 66-yard pick-six was just the icing on the cake for City High. Sabers said those types of plays were ones to be very proud of given the Lions’ (0-1) reputation for being a highflying offense.

But more than just the turnovers, it was a pair of goal-line stands that really got the Little Hawks fired up. Twice, Linn-Mar had a chance to punch it in inside the five yard-line, and twice the Lions were denied. The first was the interception, but in the second, the defensive line stood firm.

It was those plays that breathed life into City High’s offense, which took some time to get going. Correcting that could mean big things for the future, Wieland said.

“After that second (stand), it lit a fire under our offense. We drove the field after that, and we knew we had to give back to the defense for what they were doing,” said Wieland, who also finished 4 of 9 passing for 29 yards. “We definitely need to come out stronger in the first half. That’s really what hurt us. We need to secure the ball more, and if we do that, we can be one of the top teams.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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