116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Not even a return to prominence by one of Iowa high school football’s most historically successful programs could stem the tide of this wave of Central Iowa dominance.
Iowa City High became the latest victim of a seemingly unstoppable suburban Des Moines title train, dropping a 33-7 game to Southeast Polk in a Class 5A state semifinal Friday night at the UNI-Dome.
This will be the third consecutive year two Central Iowa schools will compete for the large-school championship, the second year in a row it’ll be Ankeny and Southeast Polk. Ankeny won last year and in a regular-season encounter this year.
City High was the last big-school champ not from the capital city ‘burbs, in 2009. Of course, West Des Moines Dowling’s incredible streak of seven straight titles played a major factor in this dozen years of dominance.
But Eastern Iowa schools are now 5-22 against Des Moines suburban schools in the postseason since ‘09. City High had one of those five wins, beating Urbandale in the first round a couple of weeks ago.
Pretty much says it all.
“We’ve got to make sports and football as important as it is over in Central Iowa,” said City High Coach Mitch Moore, who came to Iowa City this year from Des Moines Roosevelt. “We’ve got to have as many paid coaches as there are over in Central Iowa. We’ve got to have the same facilities as Central Iowa has, we’ve got to have the same support from community and administration as Central Iowa has if we want to be anywhere in the mix with those guys.
“With what this program has done with what we haven’t had and what we don’t have compared to them is pretty unbelievable. It’s time for everybody in Eastern Iowa to start stepping up and saying there’s a reason those guys are coming over here with 100 guys and they all look the way they do because they’ve been lifting weights since they’ve been in the seventh grade.”
Moore stressed how great the City High administration has been to him. He made no excuses about this loss, saying his team got its “butts kicked by a team that was better than us,” saying the margin could have been closer had the Little Hawks played better.
“They’ve got facilities and they’ve got coaches in touch with their (middle school) programs,” he said. “They’ve got multiple administrators in their athletic departments. Football is as important as it should be to a community in the CIML (Central Iowa Metro League). We have got at City High the most incredible administrator in (principal) John Bacon, and he’s doing everything he can to make football as important as it should be. To be able to work with that and that regiment, that regime at City High is pretty neat. So I think this is a program that can compete with those guys because of the way we’re going to set this thing up.
“Yeah, we can’t sit here and say we’re comparing apples to apples when you’re comparing Eastern Iowa to Central Iowa in terms of all those things I just talked about.”
Stop here if you’ve read this particular story before. It’s one of those copy-and-paste deals, just change the name of the schools.
City High (10-2) made too many mistakes to give itself a reasonable chance. It actually outgained SEP, held the Rams to just 158 total yards but got beaten badly on the scoreboard.
Southeast Polk (11-1) began first-half offensive possessions at the City High 13, the City High 15, the City High 18 and the City High 30 in the first half, thanks to big punt returns from Xavier Nwankpa, an interception of a tipped Drew Larson pass and a kickoff that the Little Hawks neglected to field.
The Rams scored 20 points off those miscues and held a 23-0 halftime lead.
Nwankpa — a four-star college recruit at safety whose final three are Iowa, Ohio State and Notre Dame — returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards for a SEP touchdown. He caught a 17-yard TD pass from quarterback Jaxon Dailey (an Arkansas State commit) to open the scoring.
Southeast Polk also has five-star tackle Kadyn Proctor. You’ve got to play clean football to give yourself a chance against a team full of dudes, and City High simply did not do that.
“We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the first half,” said City High’s Ben Kueter. “Our defense played lights out. Four times inside the 10 to four field goals. It is what is is. You just learn from it.”
Larson completed 19 of 31 passes for 138 yards for City High. His 1-yard touchdown pass to Kueter late in the third quarter and subsequent extra point accounted for the Little Hawks points.
New life has seemed to have been breathed into the City High program after this renaissance season, though. City High was 2-4 last season and 2-7 the three seasons prior to that.
City High rotated a pair of sophomores at quarterback (Drew Larson and Quinton Tran) who both were effective. Kueter is an Iowa football/wrestling recruit who will be one of the top seniors in the state next season.
A lot of significant personnel losses, for sure, but also a lot of positive momentum.
“I’m so grateful for the coaching staff that we were given this year,” said City High’s Gable Mitchell, through tears. “I mean, it was unbelievable the sacrifices they made to drive (from Des Moines) two-plus hours every day starting in January to come work with us.
“We won 10 games this year, and we won that many in five years before this.”
Southeast Polk 33, Iowa City High 7
Iowa City High 0 0 7 0-7
Southeast Polk 7 17 7 3-33
- SEP-Xavier Nwankpa 17 pass from Jaxon Dailey (Josh Wilson kick)
- SEP-Wilson 23 FG
- SEP-Wilson 22 FG
- SEP-Wilson 38 FG
- SEP-Titus Christiansen 13 run (Wilson kick)
- SEP-Nwankpa 94 kickoff return (Wilson kick)
- ICH-Ben Kueter 1 pass from Drew Larson (Kongalo Mwenemkamba kick)
- SEP-Wilson 25 FG
First Downs - City High 15, Southeast Polk 9. Rushes-Yards - City High 39-77, Southeast Polk 28-87. Passing Yards - City High 156, Southeast Polk 71. Completions-Attempts-Interceptions - City High 20-34-1, Southeast Polk 6-13-0. Total Yards - City High 233, Southeast Polk 158. Penalties-Yards - City High 8-55, Southeast Polk 2-10. Punts-Avg. - City High 4-33.5, Southeast Polk 2-28.0. Fumbles-Lost - City High 1-0, Southeast Polk 0-0.
Rushing - City High: Darren Richardson 16-44, Joey Bouska 5-25, Ronnie Major 3-14, Drew Larson 7-9. Southeast Polk: Abu Sama 12-51, Titus Christianson 14-56, Jaxon Dailey 2-(minus) 10.
Passing - City High: Drew Larson 19-31-1-138, Quinton Tran 1-3-0-18. Southeast Polk: Jaxon Dailey 6-13-0-71.
Receiving - City High: Gable Mitchell 6-46, Darren Richardson 5-47, Ben Kueter 4-22, Jamari Newson 3-22. Southeast Polk: Xavier Nwankpa 2-22, Quentin Christianson 1-18, Cole FIlloon 1-14, Sam Goode 1-11.
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