High school athletics are supposed to be about teaching. Some lessons are easier than others. The one City High football coach Dan Sabers had to give last week to his team was one of those he’d not like to do again.
He had to suspend a player for breaking conduct rules on the eve of a semi-final game.
It wasn’t just any player, it was his top offensive performer. Ronald Thompson was averaging almost 7 yards a carry for the Little Hawks. His 1,350 rushing yards were the team’s best. But Thompson did not make the trip from Iowa City to Cedar Falls last week to play Bettendorf and he won’t suit up against Dowling Catholic in the Class 4A final, either.
But where one student stumbled, another stepped beyond his troubled past and into the spotlight.
Cedric Readus has battled his share of troubles during his time at City High from being the star of teams, to being off those same teams just a few days later. Readus is close to 1,000 rushing yards in his senior season as a Little Hawk and how he’s got the chance to be part of a back-to-back championship run with his other teammates.
Sabers calls Readus a good kid who has learned how to deal with adversity and now is learning how to deal with success. “It is usually the stumbles that get the attention” and Sabers reminds us we’re dealing with high school kids right now. “This is not the first time a student got in trouble and it won’t be the last,” said Sabers.
The Little Hawks are 13-0, looking to run their way over another opponent. City High is closing in on 4,000 rushing as a team or 7 yards every snap. The 57 rushing touchdowns this season are 84% of their points.
Iowa City advanced to the title game with a 21-7 win over Bettendorf last week.
Quarterback Andrew McNulty has 1,107 yards on the ground and 13 scores to go with his 73 of 137 passing for 1276 yards.
Senior running back Adam Prybil will see the field as will Bobby Millard and sophomore Amos Levala. For Levala, he’ll get some offensive snaps to go along with his full time role on defense where he leads the team with 103 tackles. Coach Sabers calls Levala the strongest on the team, saying he’s quick and tough, especially for his 5-8, 197 pound frame.
The Little Hawk defense is tough as usual. They play a 4-3 base defense, but continue to put in new wrinkles, like new a heavily new defense they threw against Bettendorf. Coach Sabers says they will continue that change-up of strategy Friday against Dowling Catholic.
Zach Swehla is the team’s second leading tackler with 80 from his linebacker position. Thompson was also a defensive player, third best in terms of tackles, before his suspension.
Steve Ferentz will see time on the field Friday night. He’s the third of Coach Kirk’s boys to play at City High. Sabers said Steve is not quite the same build as his brothers Brian and James.
Sabers, a Worthington native who left the dairy farm for teaching and coaching tries to instill some of that hard work ethic to his team. Its worked, so has tradition to help the Little Hawks to their 5th state title, including 27 straight wins. Sabers also is the 7th grade junior high boys track coach, his chance to get to introduce how a little hard work can go a long way.
Former City High coach Larry Brown is still on the football staff at City High and led the team during the titles in the 90’s. He helps keep that consistency in the staff where many of the guys have been together 25 years or more. Sabers is in his 30th year at City High.
Sabers says that staff is trying to figure out how to stop the spread attack of the Maroons. He says there’s good athletes on the field from Connor Bravard, Amarah Darboh, Dalton Parrott. But it may be Eric Lee that certainly has their attention. Sabers says the closest team they’ve faced that’s like West Des Moines Dowling Catholic is Linn-Mar of Marion. A team they beat twice this year.
The Little Hawks average 39.9 points a game, but have yet to score over 50 this season. They’ve scored 40+ in 8 games (5 of their last 6) and the closest game was a 26-24 win over Xavier of Cedar Rapids when their freshman kicker, Drew Cornwell, booted the winning field goal as time expired.
The Maroons are in their 10th title game looking to hoist the trophy for the first time since 2001. This is Coach Wilson’s 4th trip to the title game. The Maroons advance with a 24-21 win over Ankeny in the semi’s last week.
I linked several stories earlier Thursday here. We go on the air at 530 from Cedar Falls and the UNI-Dome. Kickoff is scheduled for 705. We’ll have the coverage on AM1150 KWKY with Dave Marcoulier, Brian Morris and Romelle Slaughter handling the on-line duties at http://www.Twitter.com/KWKYSports. My name is Paul Yeager, we hope you can join us for what should be a great game.