IOWA CITY — The turnovers they made in a playoff game had to be kind of disconcerting. But the Iowa City West Trojans had more than enough firepower to overcome them Friday night.
Sophomore quarterback Marcus Morgan threw for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and fifth-ranked West played past its miscues in a 38-14 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy in a Class 4A first-rounder.
The Trojans (9-1) lost a pair of fumbles and suffered an interception in a first half they still ended up leading, 21-7. They played a clean second half and move along to next week’s quarerfinals.
“They were self-inflicted wounds, and that happens in high school football,” said West Coach Garrett Hartwig. “The biggest thing you can do is not have the coaches overreact to it. If you overreact, the players overreact, and it becomes bigger than what it should be. Just move on to the next play because that’s all you can do. It’s not coming back.”
Justin Thomas caught seven passes for 114 yards, including a 26-yard TD late in the third quarter to give West a 28-7 edge. Tate Crane’s 16-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of the first half capped a big-time Trojans drive that made it a two-score game at the break, despite the three turnovers.
Kennedy defensive back Brandtley Koske picked off a Morgan throw and returned it to the West 15 midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Max White ran it to the end zone on the very next play to bring the Cougars (6-4) within a touchdown.
But momentum really shifted after West was able to move 70 yards in just over a minute. Morgan completed three passes on the drive and had a huge 24-yard scramble to take the football deep into Kennedy territory.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“Multiple times this season we’ve been able to score at the end of the first half,” Thomas said. “That can be demoralizing to the opponent. I’ve played on a lot of losing teams in my football career, and if I was on the other sideline, I’d hate that. That’s an awful feeling.”
Kennedy opened the second half with a drive that took the ball to the West 36. But a wide-open White dropped a reverse pass from receiver Malik Adams that might have been a touchdown, with the Cougars eventually turning the ball over on downs.
“Two big plays,” said Kennedy Coach Brian White. “The first one was Morgan’s huge scramble. That was a back breaker. Then when we ran the reverse pass, and Max dropped it.”
Morgan completed 17 of 28 passes, hitting six different receivers. West had 10 different guys run the ball, with Morgan leading the way with 70 yards.
Cairron Hendred had 130 yards rushing on 21 attempts for Kennedy. White’s 65-yard TD pass to Adams on a pump-and-go route accounted for its other touchdown.
Will Hoeft, Landon Green and Owen McAreavy had TD runs for West, with Josh Jasek adding a 40-yard field goal. The Trojans now host Bettendorf (9-1), also ranked fifth in the final Gazette/KGYM regular-season poll, looking to avenge their lone loss, a 10-7 verdict in Week 2, a game in which Morgan had not assumed the starting quarterback role, yet.
“It’s such a long season, I’m sure Bettendorf is a different team, too,” Hartwig said. “We’re going to see Bettendorf for the seventh time now in six years, and it wouldn’t feel like the high school playoffs if we didn’t bump into them somewhere. They’ll be ready for us, we’ll be ready for them.”
“I absolutely cannot wait,” Thomas said. “I cannot wait to get back on the field with them. I don’t think we were even close to where we could be the first time we played them. I’m so excited that it’s here on Trojan Field. It’s not the playoffs if you don’t have West and Bettendorf playing each other.”