116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It was an emotional moment for Mark Bliss.
The veteran Cedar Rapids Prairie football coach had just finished walking the field with his seniors, moments after the Hawks’ impressive 50-14 victory over Iowa City West on Friday night at John Wall Field.
As the seniors went off the field, Bliss turned and was wiping away some tears.
“We just did our senior walk and when I look back at that line, I realized just how special they are,” he said. “Just having the chance to watch them grow over the last four years and to see their leadership qualities and work ethic is something I’ll never forget.”
Bliss won’t likely forget the performance his Hawks, ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, turned in against West.
Prairie was dominant from the start. The Hawks (6-2) accumulated over 600 yards of total offense, including 492 on the ground. Not a bad bounce-back performance from a group that narrowly missed upsetting Southeast Polk last week.
“They’ve been able to flush games that have been close,” Bliss said. “Anybody who knows us knows that our kids are pretty resilient. They found a way tonight to get it done and get things back on track.”
It only took the Hawks four plays to get on the board as Jake Walter went in from 12 yards out. Then it was senior quarterback Brandon Vlcko’s turn. He scored on runs of 34 and 26 yards to give Prairie a 21-0 lead before the game was even nine minutes old.
A Sawyer Slezak 30-yard field goal upped the Hawks lead to 24-0. West (2-6) got on the board in the final minute of the first half on a 10-yard run from senior Mason Applegate, cutting the gap to 24-7 at the break.
However, Applegate was injured near the end of the half and was on crutches on the West sideline during the second half. He rushed 17 times for 141 yards and the score in the first half.
With its main weapon out of action, the Trojan offense did little in the second half.
The offense reignited in the third quarter for Prairie as the hosts scored four times in the period. Walter had a 40-yard run, Junior Makelle Taylor scored on runs of 41 and 82 yards while Vlcko scored his third of the game, a 6-yard run up the middle.
Bliss said the Hawks had a good approach against the West defense.
“(West) showed us a (defensive) front that we were pretty familiar with from when we played them in the past,” he said. “The kids did a good job of recognizing what they were doing and we’ve got a really good, solid offensive line and they’ve been sound for us all year long.”
The Hawks had three runners go over 100 yards. Taylor led the way with 186, followed by Vlcko (150) and Walter (136). Vlcko also completed 7-of-13 passes for 136 yards.
With a playoff berth now in hand, Prairie will look to close the regular season with a win next Friday night over No. 8 Linn-Mar. The Lions moved to 7-1 with an easy 62-13 win Friday at Davenport Central.
“That’s the kind of game you like to see at this time of the year,” Bliss said. “Coach (Tim) Lovell has done a great job with that program and we will have our hands full against them.”