116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
They are two traditional winners. Lately, perhaps, two sleeping giants.
Iowa City High hadn’t won three games in a season since 2016. Linn-Mar had pieced together only two winning seasons in nine years.
And now, with new coaching regimes, both are 3-0.
“We’re just playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of energy, a lot of passion and a lot of fun,” City High Coach Mitch Moore said on a happy bus ride home from central Iowa late Friday night, after the Little Hawks vanquished Ames, 43-5.
Linn-Mar, meanwhile, passed its biggest test to date, 18-7, at Pleasant Valley.
“I heard a lot of people were talking about how we had lucky games or hadn’t beaten very good opponents, but we just showed that we beat a top-10 team on the road on their homecoming day,” Linn-Mar’s Luke Gaffney told the Quad City Times.
“That shows what we’re all about.”
City High was 2-4 last year, 2-7 each of the three seasons prior to that. The Little Hawks have won their first three games by a count of 152-5.
They are employing a shuttle system between sophomore quarterbacks Quinton Tran and Drew Larson, who generally switch off from series to series.
“They are two good guys, two great students of the game,” said Moore, who came to City High from Des Moines Roosevelt. “They’re friends with each other and supporters of each other, and they both have a great understanding of what they’re good at.”
Darren Richardson rushed for three second-half touchdowns as City High broke it open. It was 14-3 at halftime.
“I can’t say enough about Darren and his leadership,” Moore said. “And (linebacker) Ben Kueter is a special player. He was absolutely dominant (Friday).”
Kueter scooped up a fumble on the game’s opening possession and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Jacob Williamson added another defensive TD, a 60-yard interception return early in the third quarter.
Next up for the Little Hawks is a task against 5A giant West Des Moines Dowling, at Bates Field.
“They are the pinnacle in this state,” Moore said. “We need to see how one of the best programs does things ... how they get off the bus, how they communicate with each other.”
Linn-Mar spotted Pleasant Valley an early 7-0 lead, then the Lions stormed back behind a defense that forced four turnovers. With PV backed up deep in its own territory, Gaffney recovered a fumble at the Spartans’ 8-yard line.
On the next play, Sage Holmes ran for a touchdown, and a two-point pass from T.J. Jackson to Cam Guenther put the Lions in front.
A minute later, Linn-Mar’s Gavin Johnston returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, and the Lions led 15-7 at halftime.
“When you’re an option football team, you don’t like to be behind,” Linn-Mar Coach Tim Lovell told the Times. “For us, those were golden opportunities. You have to strike when the iron’s hot.
“Turnovers can kill you when you run the option, and we were very fortunate to get two scores there. It allowed us to play with our ears pinned back a little bit.”
The Lions opened the second half with a 21-play, 76-yard drive that ate 10 1/2 minutes and resulted in a field goal to make it 18-7.
Lovell took over the Linn-Mar program after coaching the previous five years at Marion. The Lions were 1-5 last year.
The Lions’ last 3-0 start was in 2014. City High’s was in 2011, which also marked the last time both teams enjoyed winning seasons simultaneously.
And if you’re wondering, the answer is no. The Little Hawks and the Lions do not play this season.