CEDAR RAPIDS - Earlier this season, a reporter asked Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross about the #x201c;triple crown#x201d; of prep tennis.
At the time, Gross dismissed the thought of winning a state championship in singles, dou ... »
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IOWA CITY — The results are not a surprise but they do make Iowa City West Coach Garrett Hartwig happy.
The Trojans opened the season unranked and maybe a bit of a question mark to those outside the program. All they have done is post a 2-0 start after the 31-27 road victory over then-No. 4 Muscatine last week.
“We worked really hard in the offseason,” Hartwig said. “We knew we had some guys with a lot of experience coming back. We put our nose to the grindstone all winter, spring and summer.”
West has climbed to fifth in the Class 4A rankings and face a second straight top-10 matchup, hosting No. 9 Cedar Falls in a non-district game Friday night at Trojan Field.
The Trojans went 0-5 in tough non-district games last season, starting 0-4. More excitement surrounded preseason workouts and practice as the regular season approached.
“I kind of saw it coming,” West senior wide receiver Devontae Lane said. “I really felt we were going to get off to a good start.
“I knew that the team we have this year is better than the team we had last year, because we have veteran leaders and guys willing to make the play. We’re not being too nice to each other. We’re letting guys know what they did wrong (and) when they do something right. I feel we have more passion and we want this really bad.”
The Trojans had to replace a lot of production from last season. Quarterback Alex Henderson graduated after throwing for more than 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns. None of West’s top-four rushers returned, accounting for 1,011 yards and 12 TDs.
“It’s always tough to replace players,” Hartwig said. “Guys put the work in the offseason (and) hopefully results speak for themselves. Like I said, we haven’t done anything of significance yet. We’re off to a good start but no one has qualified for the playoffs. We’re not in the playoff picture, so a long way to go.”
According to Hartwig, juniors Evan Flitz and Ethan Postler have competed for the quarterback position. Flitz has won the job and has responded to the coaches pushing him. He has thrown for 454 yards, completing 70.6-percent of his passes, and four scores.
“Both of those two have done everything we’ve asked them to in the offseason,” Hartwig said. “We feel lucky we can say we have two varsity quarterbacks on the roster.
“(Flitz) is a smart kid and a tough kid. He knows he has some tough players around him. We have not asked him to do too much and he’s done exactly what he needs to do.”
The new quarterback had two big-time targets at his disposal. Oliver Martin, a top national recruit, and Devontae Lane combined for 1,997 yards and 20 TDs a year ago. Martin, who also leads the defense in interceptions, has been impressive, going for 267 receiving yards on 16 catches with three TDs. Lane has caught seven passes for 80 yards and two scores.
The offense has been the strength overall, averaging 36.5 points per game. The Trojans have amassed 930 total yards. Matt Huff leads West with 282 rushing yards on 40 carries with two TDs, despite having just three carries last season.
“I feel like guys underestimated our offense this year,” Lane said. “We had really good juniors last year that were ready to step up and fill the spots. It was just the senior class last year was better.”
The Trojans could have a third straight ranked foe, facing rival Iowa City High in the “Battle for the Boot” next week. Don’t expect them to be looking ahead. They know the challenge awaiting from the Tigers with the Little Hawks and then district competition, featuring Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie and Linn-Mar.
“One of the mottos we go by around here is it is not who we play but how we play,” Hartwig said. “That is how it has to be. Look at our schedule last year, the year before that and then this year, it’s hard to find a win, but all you can do is control what we do.
“If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. We don’t want to shy away from anybody. We’ve taken lumps in the past and we’ve learned from them.”
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