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Southeast Polk shuts out Cedar Rapids Prairie in state football quarterfinals
Bad breaks never stopped coming for Hawks in 41-0 loss
PLEASANT HILL — The rain never stopped falling. The bad breaks for Cedar Rapids Prairie never stopped coming. And fourth-ranked and defending Class 5A state football champion Southeast Polk never relented in a 41-0 playoff quarterfinal win over the Hawks on a dreary, drizzly Friday night.
“We graduate 25 seniors that will never don the uniform of a Prairie Hawk again,” Prairie head coach Mark Bliss said. “That’s probably the hardest part, because I’ve watched these guys grow up since the sixth grade and I love them dearly and they know that, and I’ll always be there for them. I just wish we had played a little bit better tonight and had some breaks go our way.”
The Rams (9-1) scored their first touchdown off a blocked punt that ended the Hawks’ first drive of the game. Southeast Polk’s Gabe Stiles blocked it and his teammate, Obald Niyonkuru scooped it up at the 9-yard line and powered into the end zone.
It was one of those nights for Prairie (7-4), which lost several key contributors to injury this season — including dual-threat quarterback Cal Sullivan in the regular season-closing loss to Linn-Mar. The Hawks also lost two fumbles on Friday while struggling to create any momentum on either side of the ball.
Senior running back Makelle Taylor rushed for 78 yards on 23 carries. Junior receiver Apollo Payne caught two passes for 14 yards. Junior quarterback Will Phillips — in just his second career start — completed 8 of 21 passes for 43 yards.
“We’re still proud of what Will did for us last week (in a 50-28 playoff win over Linn-Mar) and he’ll learn (from) and overcome what he went through tonight,” Bliss said.
Prairie’s defense didn’t allow a point in the first quarter, but Southeast Polk scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter — one of which came off a turnover — to build a commanding 21-0 lead at halftime.
The Rams widened their edge to 28-0 early in the third quarter after running back Abu Sama’s 64-yard touchdown run and scored a defensive touchdown a few minutes later to prompt the continuous clock to start running.
“We just couldn’t get a break,” Bliss said. “No matter what happened, it was either a turnover, a blocked punt, or just something. I just don’t get it. I really don’t, because we played exceptionally well last week and we come here this week and it’s sort of the opposite, but it is what it is, and regardless of the outcome these kids are great kids, and I’m just blessed to know them.”
Payne — who will return to once again pose a big-play threat for the Hawks — said seeing those 25 seniors play their last game for Prairie was tough, but he’s excited to see how his team can build off this season in the fall of 2023.
“We went through a lot of adversity, like with our starting quarterback getting (hurt),” Payne said. “I think Will Phillips stepped up a lot. I know this game didn’t go as planned, but I think we have a lot of stuff to be proud about — and a lot of stuff to look forward to next year.”
Southeast Polk 41, Cedar Rapids Prairie 0
SEP — Niyonkuru 9-yard fumble recovery. (PAT good)
SEP — Zelenovich 14 pass from Moberly (PAT good)
SEP — Gibson 9 run (PAT good)
SEP — Sama 64 run (PAT good)
SEP — Sam Goode 0-yard fumble recovery (PAT good)
SEP — Baxter 28 pass from Hansen (PAT failed)
RUSHING — C.R. Prairie: Makelle Taylor 23-78, Casey Kelley 5-16, Collin Volky 1-5. S.E. Polk: Abu Sama 11-90, Harrison Gibson 7-81.
PASSING — C.R. Prairie: Phillips 8-21-0-43. S.E. Polk: Moberly 7-9-0-99, Hansen 1-1-0-28.
RECEIVING — C.R. Prairie: Payne 2-14, Kelley 3-11, Taylor 2-10. S.E. Polk: Robbins 3-52, Zelenovich 4-51, Baxter 1-28.