Prep Football

Alec Wick keeps making 'wow' plays look routine for Iowa City Regina

In return from hip injury, receiver hasn't lost a step

Regina's Alec Wick celebrates after maintaining control of the ball under pressure from Saint Ansgar's Ryan Cook in the
Regina’s Alec Wick celebrates after maintaining control of the ball under pressure from Saint Ansgar’s Ryan Cook in the third quarter during Iowa City Regina’s state tournament semifinal football game with St. Ansgar at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. The Regals defeated the St. Ansgar Saints, 49-28. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Iowa City Regina Coach Marv Cook has witnessed almost everything one could on a football field.

His all-state, All-America and all-NFL career occurred alongside some of the sport’s greats at every level. He analyzed college players for TV broadcasts. Cook transformed the Regals into a perennial power, winning six straight titles from 2010-16 and reaching the finals four more times over 14 seasons.

You don’t do all that without recognizing and seeing lots of skill, which makes it even more impressive when he says wide receiver Alec Wick still provides him with “wow” moments.

“From Week 1, it’s been like ‘Have you seen that? Have you seen that before?’ Then, Week 2 ... it seems like every week you’re saying, ‘Did you see that? Did that really just happen?’ He’s made some phenomenal plays.”

Even more impressive is that Wick has returned from a nasty hip injury in last year’s state quarterfinals that required surgery and sidelined him for the semifinals to leading Iowa 11-player football in receiving yards and touchdowns. His efforts have helped second-ranked Regina reach a showdown with No. 1 Grundy Center in the Class A state championship Thursday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, starting at 2 p.m.

Regina (10-1) is looking for its eighth title and the Spartans (11-0) are the last obstacle in front of the first since 2015.

“The goal has been winning it all with the guys beside you, playing with your teammates one last chance,” Wick said. “This team will never be recreated. We can’t take that for granted and play each week to the best of our ability.”

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Something he didn’t get to do in last season’s finale. Wick was injured and carted off the field on a stretcher after making a catch late in a 30-20 win over West Branch that let Regina reach the UNI-Dome.

Wick had surgery the following Monday. He still joined teammates while on crutches for a Class 1A semifinal loss to Van Meter.

“It sucked not being able to play with them, but I also had to be there and help them,” Wick said. “I had to still support them. Let them know what they were doing right and wrong, if I could help.”

Last week’s experience was much more enjoyable. He finished with 128 receiving yards on nine catches in a 49-28 victory over No. 3 Saint Ansgar, bringing his season total to 66 catches and 1,175 yards. Wick didn’t reach the end zone Friday, but he is tied for third in the state with 15 TDs.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Wick said. “It was fun to be in there and play with the team again.”

Wick produced one of those big eye-popping, shake-your-head moments, making a juggling, acrobatic 36-yard catch on second-and-21 in the third that led to a score.

“The catch he made Friday,” Cook said. “The defender literally had his arm in the middle of his catch radius and punched it out at one point. He caught it like three different times through the process, going to the ground. It’s just amazing.

“He kind of makes that routine. He has a special knack.”

The road to recovery and the chance to make such plays took six months of rehab, including four to five on crutches. The offseason was especially tough, because the pandemic prevented him from working with teammates as soon as he could. Wick, also a standout soccer player, started running routes and working on timing with quarterback Ashton Cook in June.

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Wick was determined to return, even though it was longer than he hoped. Cook admitted he didn’t expect Wick to be at the level he has this season, but realized he was good during a summer camp that Wick attended with the younger Cook. He drilled a 50-yard field goal out of the blue and then showed his old form.

“I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be OK,’” Marv Cook said. “He went out and ran 15 pristine routes. He just had the natural ball skill as far as route running and catching. I was like ‘we’re good.’”

The versatile senior is far from one-dimensional. The jack of all trades converted all seven extra-point attempts, giving him 40 this season. The team leader in interceptions added one against the Saints. He added four solo tackles, ranking fourth on the team in stops with 35. He even averaged 39.5 yards per punt in the semifinal win.

“I just want to do what I can for my teammates and coaches,” Wick said. “I have to do what they need me to do. I can’t pick and choose what I want.

“We have a lot of guys like that, though. We’re all pretty flexible and can move to different positions.”

Cook said Wick has served as a quiet leader by example his entire career. He has demonstrated toughness from the start and grown as a person as well as a player.

“As good as we thought he was last year, he’s been more dynamic and special as a player this season,” Cook said. “His first start as a freshman, offensively and defensively, was against Cedar Rapids Xavier. He played as a freshman. He took some big hits but he kept getting up and answering the bell. It’s been an incredible career, watching this kid play. He can flat out play.”

Class A state championship game

No. 2 Iowa City Regina (10-1) vs. No. 1 Grundy Center (11-0), 2 p.m. Thursday

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Postseason path: The Regals defeated Wapello (42-0) and Alburnett (28-7). They reached the semifinals for the 14th time with a 32-27 victory over No. 8 Wapsie Valley. Regina handled No. 3 Saint Ansgar, 49-28, in the semifinals. The Spartans trounced Ogden (48-6) and Nodaway Valley (40-0) before surviving No. 9 West Hancock, 20-14. They returned to their dominant ways with a 34-6 semifinal win over Council Bluffs St. Albert.

Key players: Quarterback Ashton Cook, wide receiver Alec Wick and Theo Kolie are the nucleus of the Regals’ offensive attack. Cook leads Class A with 2,537 passing and 2,804 all-purpose yards. He ranks second with 23 touchdowns. Wick is first in receiving yards (1,175), TDs (15) and receptions (66). Kolie sits second with 30 rushing TDs and 32 overall. His 1,475 rushing TDs is fifth. The Grundy Center tandem of quarterback Logan Knaack and running back Zach Opheim power the Spartans’ potent offense. Opheim has rushed for 1,817 yards and 28 TDs. Knaack has 2,056 total yards, rushing for 1,189 yards and 16 TDs. Grundy Center senior Wes Willis has harassed opposing passers, tallying 12 sacks with 51 tackles.

Finals history: Regina reached the finals for the 12th time. The Regals have won seven titles with the most recent in 2015. Grundy Center is making its fifth finals appearance, earning a runner-up finish last season. The Spartans have won three championships with the last in 1988.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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