Prep Football

Iowa high school football Week 6 rewind: Linn-Mar holds the cards in 4A District 4 race

Paul James' first gamble failed, but the next 2 were golden

Linn-Mar Coach Paul James addresses the team after its 28-12 win over Iowa City West on Friday. The Lions own sole possession of the Class 4A District 4 lead. (Justin Torner/Freelance for the Gazette)
Linn-Mar Coach Paul James addresses the team after its 28-12 win over Iowa City West on Friday. The Lions own sole possession of the Class 4A District 4 lead. (Justin Torner/Freelance for the Gazette)

They were eye-opening calls, to say the least. Head-scratching, perhaps.

Linn-Mar Coach Paul James was a gamblin’ man Friday. The first roll of the dice backfired.

With the Lions facing fourth-and-1 at their own 16-yard line early in their game at Iowa City West, James called for a quarterback sneak.

“We didn’t even have a yard to go, and I didn’t want another three-and-out,” he said.

When Marcus Orr was stopped short, it became a four-and-out. West scored moments later for a 9-0 first-quarter lead.

Linn-Mar rallied within 12-7 by halftime, then scored on a pair of Orr 1-yard touchdown runs for a 21-12 advantage in the third quarter.

After West missed a field goal with 7:58 left in the game, James kept the pedal down.

Orr — who completed his first 10 passes of the second half — hooked up with Trey Martin for 31 yards, then hit Will Zahradnik in stride for the clinching touchdown.

After one more stop, James called for a fake punt on fourth-and-12 from the Linn-Mar 26 that went for 15 yards, and the Lions ran out the clock on a 28-12 victory.

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Linn-Mar (4-2 overall, 2-0 Class 4A District 4) has control of the district race with three games to play.

“They really responded at halftime,” James said. “I told them, the defense was going to pitch a shutout and the offense was going to score the first time we had the ball.

“Our goal was to win the district and make the playoffs. This is why the guys were getting up early for weights.”

North Tama finds a way, again

Tom McDermott’s 70-year-old heart must be strong. It was put to the test again Friday.

Tate Payne hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Kopriva with 11 seconds left to send Class A third-ranked North Tama past No. 6 Grundy Center, 14-13, in a District 7 thriller at Grundy Center.

“These kids have a never-give-up attitude,” McDermott said. “A lot of them have been playing for three or four years. They’ve seen some good things and some not-so-good things.”

It’s been all good things so far this fall. Behind a defense that had allowed just 32 points, North Tama is 6-0. But like they did against Wapsie Valley and Hudson, the Redhawks needed a comeback Friday. They trailed 13-0 at halftime before rallying.

McDermott was the head coach from 1973 to 1987. He has been in and out of the program a couple of times, leaving first to become the school’s principal, then the superintendent.

Now he’s back again, and “I’m still having a lot of fun,” he said.

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1 vs. 2: The countdown is on

The long-awaited rematch between Western Dubuque and Cedar Rapids Xavier is less than a week away.

Xavier defeated Western Dubuque twice last season — once in district play (35-0), the other in the Class 3A championship game (34-20).

Barring something unlikely in this week’s Gazette/KGYM poll, Western Dubuque (6-0) will enter Friday’s showdown at Epworth with the No. 1 ranking in 3A; Xavier (6-0) figures to be No. 2.

The Saints won their 32nd consecutive game Friday, 42-0 at Dubuque Wahlert. Western Dubuque handled Center Point-Urbana, 41-7.

Quick hits

 Starmont snapped a 27-game losing streak with an 8-6 triumph over Central Springs on Friday at Manly.

The Stars’ previous victory had been Sept. 23, 2016, against Alburnett. Between those two wins, the program had forfeited seven games (two in 2017, five in 2018) due to low numbers.

 The Iowa High School Athletic Association will publish its first RPI standings of the season on its website by Monday afternoon.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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