116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — It's a team rule, and Zach Jones absolutely loves it.
'No fair catches at City High. No fair catch,' the super senior wide receiver said, after his punt return for touchdown in the third quarter broke a tie and helped lift Iowa City High past Linn-Mar, 26-13, in a prep football opener Friday night before an estimated 4,500 fans at Linn-Mar Stadium. 'Coach likes us to be fearless, thinks I'm the guy for it. I just came up, caught the ball, hit the hole hard, saw an opening, blasted through.'
Just that simple. Jones sprinted in to field a line-drive punt after Linn-Mar's offensive possession to begin the second half went nowhere and used that full head of steam to break into the open and to the end zone.
This kid's a player. He caught 10 passes for 124 yards and a TD late in the third quarter as the Little Hawks spoiled Paul James' debut as Linn-Mar head coach.
City High spreads the field with three guys out wide on one side of the field, and Jones on the other. Just get him and ball and let him do his considerable thing.
'We've got one of the best players in the state to go to,' said City High Coach Dan Sabers. 'He adjusts to the ball well, and he's super confident. He believes he can get every ball. When you've got that kind of attitude with athletic skills, that's tough.'
'They've got some tools and exploited us,' said James, who came to Linn-Mar this season after spending parts of four decades at Cedar Rapids Washington. 'Some of our kids have never been in a situation where you're on an island like that and trying to cover a wide receiver that is very good and has a lot of speed and can catch the ball. That's tough. You get thrown into the fire, and that's how you learn.'
Quarterback Bryce Hunger threw for 222 yards in his first varsity start, and fellow senior Davonte Foster rushed for a pair of TDs in his first varsity start at running back. City High returned just three starters total this season, so this was a very nice response from an inexperienced team.
'To get the jitters out for all the juniors and everybody playing in this game, it was a big testament to see what we had,' Jones said. 'Came out strong, started to stutter a little bit. As soon as we came out after halftime, we started clicking again. We got together, started to fight.'
'We're going to be a scrappy bunch, and I thought we were pretty scrappy tonight,' Sabers said. 'Obviously we have a special player in Zach. Our quarterback played pretty darn tough under a lot of pressure. Their big guys up front created some problems for us and stuff. He took some hits, but just kept getting up.'
This was not a cleanly played affair by any stretch, with the teams combining for 25 penalties and four turnovers. Linn-Mar was penalized nine times alone in the first half, which did not please its new coach.
Growing pains with a new system are expected, but James felt this was a bit over the top.
'Disappointed in our penalty mistakes,' he said. 'I think we counted 87 yards in penalties, and I may be off on that, in the first quarter. How can that happen? But we overcame it, and I give the kids a lot of credit for fighting back and making it a tie game at half. We actually probably should have had the lead.'
Quarterback Trot Carey, a receiver last season, scrambled for a 48-yard touchdown and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Nibaur to rally the Lions from 13 points down and into a tie by halftime. Carey completed 17 of 36 passes for 181 yards, with Nibaur catching nine balls for 98.
A Nibaur fumble on Linn-Mar's first possession was recovered by City High's Cole Milder and returned to the Lions 21. After a false-start penalty and incomplete pass, Foster was able to beat a Linn-Mar blitz with his first scoring run.
Miles Morrow hit the extra point for a 7-0 Little Hawks edge 2:58 in.
A pass interference on Linn-Mar followed by a 41-yard pass play from Hunger to Keyshawn Christian set up Foster's second TD. Christian was able to catch a pass off a deflection by Linn-Mar defensive back Tyler Hungate, who appeared to have a sure interception.
The extra-point try was blocked.
The athleticism of Carey showed through on his touchdown run. Facing immediate pressure, he stepped up in the pocket, broken into open field and eventually down the sideline for his touchdown with 4:52 remaining in the half.
Foster was stripped in the open field and fumbled inside the Linn-Mar 35 on City High's ensuing possession, negating what had been a 20-plus-yard run. After an exchange of punts, Nibaur atoned for his early fumble by adjusting to a Carey bomb thrown to the outside for 41 yards, then bobbling but catching his touchdown on a post pattern.
The extra-point kick failed.
Linn-Mar had 213 first-half yards to City High's 212 but was limited to 67 second-half yards.
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