Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The goal for any high school player in Iowa that has ever pulled on a set of shoulder pads is to end the season in the UNI-Dome.
With state Class 4A title game appearances each of the last two seasons West High has had plenty of players earn the memorable experience of ending their careers at the state’s most sought-after venue.
For West High senior Brendan Mott the opportunity to play a postseason game on the UNI-Dome turf still remains just a dream.
A dream that for months seemed to be slipping further and further away.
After a year filled with injuries, setbacks and waiting Mott will get a shot at the ending he has always wanted on Friday when sixth-ranked West High (9-1) hosts No. 4 Bettendorf (9-1) in a 4A quarterfinal rematch at 7 p.m. at Trojan Field.
“Honestly, it would be everything, for sure,” Mott said of reaching the UNI-Dome in his senior season. “After watching last year and everything that’s happened……it would mean everything to me.”
Two years ago Mott watched as his older brother Chris and West High returned to the UNI-Dome for the first time since 1999.
Last season Mott was on his way to helped the Trojans to a return trip to the UNI-Dome.
He earned a starting spot in the defensive backfield and picked off a pass in a season-opening win at Southeast Polk.
Mott got a chance to play at the UNI-Dome in week three helping West High to a thrilling 32-31 overtime win over Cedar Falls.
Everything changed for Mott the following week when he tore his meniscus and ACL in a win at City High.
He injury ended his junior season and forced Mott to watch from the sidelines as West High returned to the 4A title game where it fell to West Des Moines Dowling for the second consecutive season.
“It was definitely tough to watch especially because my brother was a senior so I really missed playing with him,” Mott said. “It was hard to watch but I was mainly focused on getting back into things and supporting my teammates.”
Mott never imagined how long or challenging the road back to the football field would be.
In February was involved in an accident while snowmobiling that left him with a broken elbow and torn triceps.
The arm injury healed in time for Mott to join the Trojans for summer workouts.
On the first play of the first seven-on-seven game of the summer Mott broke his tibia.
“There were moments where you kind of wonder what else can happen,” Mott admitted. It’s definitely been a long time coming but you just have to be patient and know what you are working for. It’s finally here and it feels good.”
Mott kept working. He kept rehabbing and his opportunity finally arrived.
He got cleared to return to the field in week three and made 2.5 tackles in a win over Southeast Polk.
“The first game back I definitely had teary eyes,” Mott said. “It felt good being out here with my buddies it’s a blast.”
That was just the beginning for Mott who has emerged as a key playmaker for a West High defense that ranks as one of the best in the state.
“I’m glad he has been able to do these last four or five weeks because we all knew what could have been with him,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “He’s a very, very good football player and he’s having an excellent season and he’s just had so many setbacks that you feel for a kid like that.”
Not only did Mott have to knock off some rust after a spending an entire year away from the sport while dealing with injuries but he had to learn a new position.
A growth spurt between his junior and senior seasons turned Mott from 5-11, 170-pound defensive back to a 6-foot-3, 195-pound linebacker.
The added length and weight has been a plus but it left Mott with a definite position.
“Through the whole offseason we are wondering if he can still cover receivers or is he a linebacker,” West High defensive coordinator Tyler Meade said. “He grew five or six inches and that changes so many things so we didn’t even know what he was until he got in season. Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? And then we put the pieces together from there.”
With his experience as a defensive back and the size of a linebacker Meade liked the versatility Mott brought to the defense.
He has found a home at the same spot in the Trojan defense that current Iowa freshman Dillon Doyle manned last season at an all-state level.
“It’s nice that he has that experience as a defensive back from last year so he understands coverages and how to align against receivers,” Meade said. “Now with his added size and strength you can put him on the edge and he can get after a quarterback.”
In the first true extended action of his career Mott just continues to get better.
Despite missing three games he ranks eighth on the team with 23 tackles and is second with 3.5 sacks.
“He’s long and he’s very instinctive and he just has a good football sense about him,” Hartwig said. “He’s not as heavy as he could be because of the injuries but when he collides with people he gets separation and he’s not the one going back.
"That’s just an aggressiveness that’s just natural instinct when it comes to leverage. Not only does he feel the game well he’s just a football player. You are born with that in a lot of ways and you have to be tough and he’s a tough kid.”
Mott had a career-high 5.5 tackles in his first career playoff game last Friday, a 38-14 opening round win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
After a long year away from the sport Mott can’t help but soak in every moment.
“I definitely appreciate the little things now that I was out,” Mott said. “Just being able to run, being able to hit people you appreciate the little things after all those steps.”
Now Mott would like to enjoy a playoff moment, or two, at the UNI-Dome. Something most of his senior teammates have already gotten to experience.
“I’ve played there once in the regular season but I’ve been there multiple times not playing so it would definitely be a good feeling if we can make it back up there,” Mott said. “It’s just how we play, it’s how our team does it’s not about the other team at all.”
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