Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The West High football team started the Class 4A playoffs just like it ended the regular season – on a roll.
The sixth-ranked Trojans finished with over 400 yards and had five different players score touchdowns during a 38-14 victory over Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the first round of the playoffs on Friday at Trojan Field.
West High showed tremendous balance with 255 passing yards from sophomore quarterback Marcus Morgan, to go along with 191 rushing yards.
Ten different players had at least one rushing attempt for West High, while six different players caught at least one pass, led by senior Justin Thomas with six catches for 94 yards.
“At the beginning of the game we can kind of feel them out and if they have anything that they’re clearly trying to stop, we just go to something else,” Thomas said of West High’s depth and versatility on offense. “In this offense, we have as much faith in every single one of our players.
“We have no problem shifting away from one player to go to another.”
West High improved to 9-1 on the season and will face Bettendorf in the quarterfinals next Friday, while Kennedy finished the season with a 6-4 record.
Bettendorf defeated West High 10-7 in the second game of the season, but that was without Morgan playing quarterback for the Trojans.
The talented 6-foot-2 sophomore became the starter after senior Joey Kuehn was injured early in the season and Morgan has seized the opportunity.
Morgan also rushed for 73 yards in Friday’s victory, giving him over 300 total yards in his first high school playoff game as the starting quarterback.
“He’s a great athlete, I’ve played with him for many years,” junior receiver Tate Crane said of Morgan, who also had punts that covered 68 and 44 yards in Friday’s game. “His athleticism and power and strength does well in our offense.”
Crane, a 6-2, 170-pound junior is developing into one of Morgan’s favorites targets. Crane caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Morgan that expanded West High’s lead to 21-7 with Josh Jasek’s point-after kick with 26.2 seconds left in the first half.
Crane finished with five catches for 74 yards.
“I just play my role, game-to-game, week-to-week, next guy in type of thing,” Crane said. “We just play as a team.”
West High led 14-0 after the first quarter despite losing fumbles on back-to-back possessions on botched snaps from center.
Morgan also threw an interception deep in his own territory with 7:54 left in the second quarter that Kennedy converted into a touchdown on the next play when sophomore quarterback Max White blasted through a huge hole and scored from 15 yards.
West High’s performance was far from perfect with three turnovers in the first half, and yet, the Trojans still rolled to a 24-point victory.
“We’ve seen adversity many times and it’s just another example of it and we were able to recover from it and move on to the next play ourselves and continue on,” said West High coach Garrett Hartwig.
Kennedy finished with 301 yards, but was held to a minus-2 passing yards in the first half. The Cougars finished with 105 passing yards, with 65 coming on a touchdown by Malik Green in which West High appeared to have a rare breakdown on defense.
Because for most of Friday’s game, West High shut down Kennedy’s passing attack.
“We had those problems with the turnovers today but as an offensive player I didn’t worry at all,” Thomas said. “I have complete faith in our defense, and that’s so comforting to not have to worry about them giving up points when your offense can’t come through.”
Senior Landon Green was a force at nose guard and he also had a 41-touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter in which he broke free around left end and then outraced several defenders down the sideline before reaching the end zone.
Junior fullback Will Hoeft scored West High’s first touchdown on a one-yard run with 9:43 left in the first quarter, while fellow fullback Owen McAreavy scored West High’s final touchdown on a two-yard run with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Jasek completed the scoring for West High by making a 40-yard field goal with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter. He also made all five of his point-after kicks.
The Trojans are trying to accomplish what they fell just short of accomplishing in the previous two seasons when West High finished runner in the Class 4A playoffs.
The Trojan offense is more explosive with Morgan now playing quarterback, but Hartwig said Bettendorf also has improved since the teams last met in September.
“The season is an evolution, a step to improving every week,” Hartwig said. “And that’s how we look at it. You hope and prepare for a 13-game process and we’ve got to be playing the best football now.
“We weren’t playing our best football tonight, but we were playing good football for most of the game and every time we move on the stakes rise and we can’t afford those mistakes. So we’ve got to get that cleaned up. But we are a different team. (Bettendorf) is a different team.”
The biggest difference with West High is at quarterback where Morgan’s dual-threat skills have helped to lift the offense to another level.
“I’ve watched him play varsity baseball and every game that he played, he just got better and better,” Thomas said of Morgan, who is also a standout pitcher in baseball and talented guard in basketball. ‘So I knew when he got the start early in the season that he was just going to get better and better.
“And now we’re here and he’s looking great.”
First downs 12 22
Rushes-yards 40-196 34-191
Passing yards 105 255
Punts-average 7-31.0 3-47.7
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 1-10 2-10
CR Kennedy 0 7 7 0 – 14
West High 14 7 7 10 – 38
ICW – Will Hoeft 1 run (Josh Jasek kick)
ICW – Landon Green 41 run (Jasek kick)
CRK – Max White 15 run (Steven Svoboda kick)
ICW – Tate Crane 16 pass from Marcus Morgan (Jasek kick)
ICW – Justin Thomas 26 pass from Morgan (Jasek kick)
CRK – Malik Adams 65 pass from Max White (Svoboda kick)
ICW – Owen McAreavy 2 run (Jasek kick)
ICW – Jasek 40 FG
RUSHING – CRK: Cairron Hendred 19-137, Max White 16-39, Malik Adams 3-14, Brandtley Koske 1-5, Cade Parker 1-5. ICW: Marcus Morgan 10-73, Landon Green 2-37, Peter Breitbach 11-31, Jalen Gaudet 1-21, Marchaun Hoovr 3-10, Coler Mabry 2-8, Owen McAreavy 2-8, Will Hoeft 1-1, Justin Thomas 1-(-7), Tate Crane 1-(-1).
PASSING – CRK: Max White 8-16-1 105, Malik Adams 0-1. ICW: Marcus Morgan 18-29-1 255
RECEIVING – CRK: Thomas Vanek 3-18, Sam Harrison 2-7, Malik Adams 1-65, Cody Pflughaupt 1-13, Cairron Hendred 1-(-2). ICW: Justin Thomas 6-94, Tate Crane 5-74, Noah Aanestad 2-41, Cole Mabry 2-22, Jalen Gaudet 2-19, Alex McKay 1-5.