INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Before the current four-game stretch, Cedar Rapids Prairie boys’ soccer coach Curt Lewis told his team he’d be happy to come away with two wins.
The Hawks will try for a clean sweep Tuesday at Iowa City West.
“Now it is kind of playing with house money,” Lewis said after Class 3A No. 2 Prairie edged seventh-ranked Iowa City High, 1-0, in a Mississippi Valley Conference game Thursday night at John Wall Field. “We knew that if we could get tonight, it would give us a three-game lead over City High in the division standings with six games to play. … I’m proud of the boys.”
Consecutive MVC victories over Xavier, Washington and now City High — each ranked in their respective classes — should lift Prairie (11-0, 7-0 MVC) to the No. 1 ranking when the 3A poll is released Tuesday. The Hawks will visit current-No. 6 West (7-2, 4-2 MVC) later that night.
“It is going to start tomorrow night,” said Prairie senior Matt Walter, whose goal in the 28th minute provided the game’s lone score. “We’re going to come back out and recover. It’s going to be a tough match. West is always a great team.”
The goal was the team-high ninth this season for Walter, while senior Max Smith-Drahos delivered another stellar goalkeeper performance for Prairie.
Before this season, Smith-Drahos’ soccer experience amounted to little more than a youth league for five and six-year-olds, plus a spirited turn leading the Prairie student section last year.
“I’m familiar with the team because I’ve always been a big fan of the program,” said Smith-Drahos, who has played in seven of 11 games via a rotation with junior Chase Harrison, who missed time at the beginning of the season due to a red card in last year’s substate final. “I didn’t think I would be a main contributor on the team, but I’m very excited and blessed for this opportunity.”
Smith-Drahos’ denial of a Jonah Dancer penalty kick in the 33rd minute helped preserve Prairie’s eighth shutout this season.
City High (6-3, 4-3 MVC) — the state runner-up in 3A last season — has lost three games in a row.
AT JOHN WALL FIELD
No. 2 Cedar Rapids Prairie 1, No. 7 Iowa City High 0
Goal — Matt Walter; Assist — Caleb Halleran.
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