JOHNSTON — Big plays doomed Cedar Rapids Prairie on Friday as the Hawks lost 28-14 to Johnston in the first round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.
The first three Johnston touchdowns all came on plays that went 30 yards or more. The longest was a 76-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Andrew Nord to Anthony Coleman on the second play of the second half to extend the Dragons’ lead to 21-0.
Johnston scored another touchdown in the third quarter to increase its lead to 28-0.
“(Trying to contain them) was very difficult because of their overall team speed,” Prairie coach Mark Bliss said. “They were, quite bluntly, faster than us. When you have speed, you try and find ways to utilize it. They have a very good coaching staff and they had a good scheme and found ways to get their speed to the edge.”
Prairie’s single-wing style offense isn’t designed to score quick, but even down four touchdowns, the Hawks still fought.
“I said at halftime, ‘You have 24 minutes to try and leave a legacy and find a way to battle,’” Bliss said. “They battled all year long and we have been down before, so it’s not anything uncommon for our kids. They came out and they battled.”
Prairie’s first touchdown came on a 9-yard touchdown run from Tariq Amir with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter. Amir had 47 yards on nine carries in the game.
The Hawks immediately recovered an onside kick, proving they weren’t down for the count. Prairie capitalized on the onside kick, eventually scoring on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Izaak Lindgren to Ryan Kilpatrick. Lindgren finished the game 4 of 14 for 45 yards. He also added 13 yards on the ground.
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“Our kids found a way to battle and compete and we put 14 points in the board pretty quick,” Bliss said. “Then they recovered the onside kick and they were able to run the clock. It is what it is and like I said, I love my kids and I’m very proud of our efforts.”
Prairie’s comeback bid was made more difficult due to an injury to Hawks star running back Keegan Simmons. Simmons came into the game with a slightly pulled groin and it flared up on him in the fourth quarter.
“He’s the one that came up to me and said he was just scared,” Bliss said. “I said, ‘Son, here’s the deal. If you’re scared, you’re done.’
“We had to pull him because it got so tight on him that it started to really burn. Anybody that plays for me, your health is more important than any ball game. That’s just the reality. I’m not going to jeopardize anybody’s health in any conceivable way in order to try and put points on the board. But he was hurting and I could tell and I just told him that he was done. He was tearing up because he knew he couldn’t go. If he’s not going 100 percent, there’s not a whole lot else you can do.”
In three quarters, Simmons ran for 115 yards on 28 carries. In his effort, he eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for the season. Simmons is the first in Prairie history to do it.
“He’s leaving behind an unbelievable legacy that I don’t know any time in the near future we’ll have a back that can fill his shoes,” Bliss said. “We’re all going to miss him and I think Prairie is going to miss him because he’s a very special kid. He really is. All of our seniors are very, very special.”
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