116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — When you are playing a substate final game, it’s scoreless, it’s halftime, and there’s a lengthy weather delay, how do you handle it?
For Cedar Rapids Prairie’s boys’ soccer club, coaches hung out in the John Wall Field concession stand, getting updates from activities directors from both Prairie and opponent Iowa City Liberty and passing those updates on to players.
“Just give us enough time so we could get them to get ready mentally,” said Prairie Coach Curt Lewis. “We thought this was going to be a physical game, but this was actually a mental game. When you get that break, it’s all about how are you going to get yourself in?”
“It was honestly tough,” said Prairie midfielder Blake Halleran. “First they said 30 minutes, then they were saying an hour. Then it was an hour and a half, then two hours. In the locker room, everyone was kind of down. We’ve got to lift their heads, keep in this game. When we finally came out for the second half, we were all fired up.”
Fired up after a lot of positive thinking during the break and a sort-of dance contest. It was Halleran declared the winner.
“Yeah, Blake with his Griddy,” smiled Prairie’s Gavin Lewis.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Halleran said. “I’m always working on my dance moves. Yes, it was The Griddy.”
The winning Griddy followed by the winning goal. Halleran’s penalty kick conversion with 7:48 left ended up giving ninth-ranked Prairie a 1-0 win over No. 10 Iowa City Liberty
Prairie (16-3) has qualified for the state tournament for the fifth time since 2015, its second year in a row. The Hawks have never won a state tourney game.
You bet your cleats that’s a focus of emphasis for this group.
“We’ve been saying all year that we want to make history and win that first game in Des Moines,” Halleran said.
The teams played a 1-0 game in the regular season, Prairie also winning, so this was expected to be a similar type of affair. Both teams had some chances here and there, but it looked like extra time was a sure thing until Lewis drew a foul while he was competing with the ball with his back to the net and about five Liberty players defending him.
“I just got in there, and they whacked me, like, 15 times surrounding it,” said Lewis, son of the head coach. “I got it, got the win, and that’s what’s important.”
“He draws them,” Coach Lewis said. “It’s funny because his back was to (the goal), he was going nowhere with it. But he got one last year, and he got one again this year for us ... He’s had an amazing campaign for us.”
Liberty keeper Conley Sunblad went to his left on the penalty kick, with Halleran kicking it to his left. Straight-in winner.
“I stay out here all the time after practice, other guys stay with me 20, 30 minutes after every single practice,” Halleran said. “You’ve really got to get your kicks in. It’s free kicks, passes, dribbles, shooting, penalties. It takes extra work to get here. It’s not just about me. This team has been brilliant all year.”
Liberty finished 15-4 in its first season in Class 3A.
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