116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – When attempting to replace two of the most productive offensive football players in school history, an experienced quarterback is a good place to start.
Fresh off a 22-touchdown, five-interception season that ended in the Class 4A state championship game, Iowa City West senior Evan Flitz appears poised to lead a Trojans' offense in search of new playmakers.
'He knows exactly what his capabilities are,' fourth-year West Coach Garrett Hartwig said. 'He makes the smart decisions. He's one of the smartest kids on the team, academically and football-wise. For him, it's making the right play, not the big play that matters because the big play will follow the right play if done correctly.'
With four West players scoring at least a 30 out of 36 on the ACT college-readiness exam, 'smart' is a common attribute of the fourth-ranked Trojans' roster. The task for Hartwig and his assistant coaches during camp has been finding players to fill the void created by the graduation losses of receiver Oliver Martin and receiver/tailback Devontae Lane, two all-state performers who made a sizable dent in the state and school record books.
Watch: Evan Flitz highlights
'We've got competition everywhere,' Hartwig said. 'We started our offseason back in December. It was no secret guys were going to graduate. ... We are who we are. We don't try to be anybody else or replicate anything from the past. We are what we have and we are very excited about that. Guys are competing and the leadership has been great.'
Throughout the preseason, Flitz has been energized by the development displayed by senior receivers Traevis Buchanon and Austin West, plus tight end Dillon Doyle. The trio combined for 58 catches, 922 yards and five touchdowns last season.
'Our receiving corps may be deeper and even stronger than we had last year,' Flitz said. 'We have more guys this year that are more comfortable with the playbook and with the route combos and have really made a lot of plays.'
Flitz's own offseason development was enhanced by attending various one-day college camps — which yielded some undisclosed scholarship offers — and the Nike Opening Elite 11 regional camp in April at Chicago, where the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Flitz was surrounded by some of the best quarterback prospects and coaches from around the Midwest.
The experience highlighted one overriding need for personal improvement.
'Vision is a tough thing to work on because it requires live reps, you would think,' Flitz said. 'But I've actually spent a lot of time just watching our 7-on-7 films from this summer, even game film from last year where a couple of times during a game you find a receiver and you stick with him. But this year, with more options on the outside I'll really be able to work option to option and find a receiver that is going to get us the most yards.'
Shouldering the load in the running game figures to start with senior Andre White, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season and scored three touchdowns.
Doyle is the unquestioned leader of the West defense. The linebacker — now 6-foot-3, 210 pounds after a dedicated offseason of strength and conditioning — collected 54 tackles, 8 1/2 for loss, plus 1 1/2 sacks last season. The son of University of Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, Dillon verbally committed to the hometown Hawkeyes in March.
'I think the people had a large part in that decision,' Doyle said. 'Obviously with my dad and Coach (Kirk) Ferentz, I've grown up around the program. I'm really comfortable making that decision because I know the coaches make you the best player coming out of college that they possibly can. I grew up around players like Dallas Clark and Chad Greenway and Pat Angerer and I've always looked up to those guys. Finally being able to become one of those guys, hopefully, in the future is a pretty cool opportunity.'
Watch: Dillon Doyle highlights
Six-foot-1 senior defensive end Dillon Shephard (48 tackles, 17 1/2 for loss and nine sacks) is back to harass opposing quarterbacks, while linebacker Caden Fedeler (44 tackles) and strong safety Cole Mabry (63.5 tackles) will help anchor a defense that allowed more than 23 points just twice in 13 games last season and will be counted on to hold down a district slate that includes No. 9 Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Linn-Mar.
'I think we have the toughest district in the state,' Hartwig said. 'There are playoff teams from top to bottom and we can get beat by any of them. I think the key is which teams are healthy and peaking at the right time.'
West, at a glance
Coach: Garrett Hartwig (4th year, 21-15)
Last year: 10-3 (lost to West Des Moines Dowling, 23-10, in Class 4A state title game)
Top returning letterwinners: QB Evan Flitz, sr.; LB/TE Dillon Doyle, sr.; DE Dillon Shephard, sr.; LB Caden Fedeler, sr.; WR Traevis Buchanon, sr.; OL Jonathan Gannon, sr.; DB Cole Mabry, jr.; RB Andre White, sr.; K Lucas Karwal, sr.
Key losses: WR/DB Oliver Martin, OL/DL Alex Kleinow, LB Max Brown, WR/RB Devontae Lane, OL Coy Blair, OL Josh Van Roekel.
Key to making the playoffs: Cedar Rapids Prairie, Kennedy and new-look Linn-Mar will each present unique roadblocks to a return to the 4A playoffs. Non-district contests against Southeast Polk, Cedar Falls and crosstown rival Iowa City High should have the Trojans well prepared.
Games to watch: At Iowa City High, Sept. 15. Last year, the Trojans were held to seven points and lost the annual 'Battle of the Boot.' This season, the rivalry meeting leads into district play, where West hosts Cedar Rapids Prairie and Kennedy in two of its first three district tilts.
Aug. 25 – at Southeast Polk
Sept. 1 – Muscatine
Sept. 8 – at Cedar Falls
Sept. 15 – at Iowa City High
Sept. 22 – Cedar Rapids Prairie
Sept. 29 – at Burlington
Oct. 6 – Cedar Rapids Kennedy
Oct. 13 – Linn-Mar
Oct. 20 – at Ottumwa
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