116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Projecting which Iowa high school boys’ soccer teams were poised for success was a tougher task in 2021.
After the 2020 season was wiped out, pegging traditional powers with at least some starters returning, like Iowa City West, was the safest bet.
Better go ahead and count Cedar Rapids Prairie among the Mississippi Valley Conference contenders.
All the Hawks did to follow up Saturday’s home invitational in which they beat Dubuque Hempstead 4-1 and Marshalltown 3-0 was go out and beat Iowa City West 2-1 in overtime at home Tuesday night.
When sophomore Hunter Wilson laced home a penalty kick with 3:23 remaining in the first overtime, he gave Prairie just its third win over West in program history.
That’s 20-time state qualifier Iowa City West. That’s 2019 Class 3A runner-up Iowa City West, with multiple seniors in the lineup who were All-MVC as sophomores and an impact transfer up top.
“Pure excitement,” Wilson said. “We knew that we’d have a chance. They were starting to tire out, so we were ready.”
Prairie has been looked at as an emerging stalwart in its own right. The Hawks made their state debut in 2015 and returned in 2017 after an undefeated regular season and again in 2018. But with only three players back from a 2019 team that went 12-7, including just one who played significant minutes, this team was looked at with a question mark from the outside.
“We’ve set a standard and an expectation for our program,” Prairie Coach Curt Lewis said. “This is a whole new squad. They just played their hearts out tonight.”
West (2-1) had multiple goals taken off the board, the first from Iowa City Liberty transfer Kolby Godbolt early in the first half. He made up for it less than six minutes later with an eerily similar play in which he split two defenders and rocketed the ball past the goalkeeper.
Lewis thought his young team looked shaky after that, but the Hawks got back in it when Blake Halleran slid home a free kick from the top of the box with 17:04 remaining in the first half.
“Once we got the equalizer, you could tell that we believed and could play and compete,” Lewis said.
Prairie mostly held a speedy, talented attack in check from there, but West’s potential go-ahead goal was waved off with 9:49 left in the second half on an offside call. Aiden Neumann made a one-on-one save early in overtime, then freshman Gavin Lewis drew what proved to be the decisive penalty a few minutes later after dribbling past a defender into the box.
The Hawks practice penalties often. Wilson stood out in practice Monday and got the call, despite this being just his third high school game. His kick looked just like the countless reps he’s put in on the weekends.
“I think (the win) shows that we have a lot of potential this year,” Wilson said. “They better watch out for Prairie.”