116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — It was a root canal of a game.
With everything at stake top-ranked and unbeaten Iowa City High was in a scoreless 3A semifinal against Ames for what seemed like a week. Finally, mercifully, in the 72nd minute Henry Mosher lofted a soft cross to Jackson Meyer, who smashed a shot into the net for a 1-0 victory.
'It's so intense,' City senior Victor Rodriguez-Brown said. 'It's dramatic; it's frustrating for both teams. It's relief every time you clear the ball. It's agony every time you miss a shot. Every emotion is coursing through you.'
City High (20-0) will play No. 2 West Des Moines Valley (19-1) for the 3A title at 5 p.m. Saturday.
This was anything but easy.
'Their No. 6 (Romarin Ngapouth) covered everything; he was everywhere,' City's Collin O'Meara said. 'The keeper made good saves. It took us awhile to kind of break down their defense in the first half, but in the second half I think they got kind of tired and we were able to pass more.'
Both teams had numerous chances. Ames had corners and free kicks that were dangerous but didn't amount to anything.
'They had a good defense, so it was hard to get a clean look,' Ames Coach Chad Zmolek said.
City's Gaby Baloci made run after run, but when City got deep it was hard to connect against eight or more defenders. And so the tension mounted.
'There's so much adrenaline going on and the crowd, there's noise all the time,' O'Meara said. 'You feel like the crowd is fueling you. The second half I truly couldn't feel anything, there was so much adrenaline.'
The lone goal came after a change in the lineup.
'I just had gotten moved up,' Meyer said. 'I was playing left back the whole game. I had been up about a minute, and that was my job, a cross (from Mosher) came in, went over a couple defenders' heads and came to me, and I just had a clinical finish into the goal.
'I saw I didn't have a defender back post because one of the center backs was in the middle so I went behind him.'
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Zmolek was philosophical.
'I was hoping for some kind of play like that on our side,' he said smiling. 'We had a couple in that first half where passes were a little too high. And that one just laid out well for him, and he was in the right place. It happens. And the later it goes on your legs aren't as strong and you aren't able to stay in position.'
Pressure built week by week for the unbeaten Little Hawks, but now they've reached the goal of playing for a championship.
'It's relief, relief that you finally are there,' Brown-Rodriguez said. 'That things went right. That you're going to have another chance (today). That things went your way. That you got lucky; that you had the skill. That you put the other team away.'