Prep Football

Iowa City High rallies to beat Iowa City Liberty in its first varsity game

Iowa City High’s Tonka Hickman (28) breaks a tackle by Iowa City Liberty’s Robert Voigt (60) on the way to a touchdown at Bates Field in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Justin Torner/Freelance)
Iowa City High’s Tonka Hickman (28) breaks a tackle by Iowa City Liberty’s Robert Voigt (60) on the way to a touchdown at Bates Field in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Justin Torner/Freelance)
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IOWA CITY — The first play from scrimmage came on offense and was a rush for 6 yards. The first completed pass was for 15 yards in the second quarter.

The first touchdown was a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter. The first varsity football win for the Iowa City Liberty Lightning?

That’ll have to wait. But, by the looks of it, not a long time.

Iowa City High scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Liberty, 38-21, in an entertaining season-opening — and program-opening, on one side — game Friday night at Bates Field. This one sure had its fair share of twists and turns.

“It’s just tough,” said Liberty Coach Jeff Gordon. “That’s what we told the guys. There are no moral victories. There is a game, you either win it or lose it, and we lost it.”

City High got a pair of touchdown runs from Max DePrenger and another from Tonka Hickman to pull out a victory it seemed to have cinched at halftime. The Little Hawks saw a 17-0 lead disappear thanks to an unreal third quarter by Liberty lineman Max Lenane, who blocked a punt and forced and recovered two fumbles.

Those plays eventually resulted in three Lightning TDs, a 2-yard run by Kaleb Williams giving Liberty its first-ever lead, 21-17, seconds into the fourth. But DePrenger broke the ensuing kickoff 60 yards after initially misplaying it, leading to the first of his fourth-quarter scores.

“That was a huge momentum boost,” he said. “As soon as we started (making those mistakes), if we got down on those, if I came back and started pouting and stuff, I wouldn’t have been able to start getting our group back together.”

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City High got all of its yards in this game on the ground, a punishing 421 of them, to be exact. Hickman led the way with 173 on 20 carries, his finale a 55-yarder for a touchdown with 2:10 left.

“I just knew they (Liberty) were pretty good freshman and sophomore year,” Hickman said. I knew they had few seniors. They were a team of juniors and sophomores, basically. But, you know what, we came hard, too, after them.”

“Those first ballgames, you never know what you’re going to get,” said City High Coach Dan Sabers. “We helped them out in the third quarter, they got after us. I’m proud of how we battled back ... They had to go out and find a way to control the game again, and that’s what they did.”

Jack Ankenbauer notched Liberty’s first points, a 1-yard touchdown run early in the third. Quarterback Drake Woody hit Dawson Zimmerman on a 29-yard TD pass on fourth down a minute later.

“I think we’re going to need to improve a little bit,” Zimmerman said. “We kind of got punched in the mouth. We came back, but I think adapting to the varsity environment, the 12-minute quarters, as opposed to eight minutes in sophomore games, is harder. But we’re going to overcome that, we’re going to learn from it.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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