Derby off, but City High rolls on

BY IAN MARTIN | OCTOBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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Just three hours after the Hawkeyes’ newest football recruit, City High quarterback A.J. Derby, committed, he stepped on to a muddy field to play his final Homecoming game against a sub-.500 team.

While sounding like the perfect recipe for a big game, the Little Hawk defense had to step in to make up for a poor game from Derby to grab a 22-14 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy Oct. 2.

Despite coming in with a 2-3 record, the Kennedy Cougars were in the game until the final 10 seconds thanks to a late kickoff return for a touchdown by Joshua Simmons. Finally, though, City High recovered an onside kick to secure the win.

Forcing five turnovers — including four interceptions from Derby — Kennedy had seemingly endless offensive chances but did not score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. The Cougars also gained only one first down in the first half, from a 20-yard catch by Anthony Crawley.

“We just played our responsibilities, and just stayed on the field, and just stood our ground,” said City High tight end and defender Tucker Tholen, who recorded a safety for the Little Hawks in the first quarter. “We expected them to come out very hard. They’re a very good team.”

City High is now 6-0 on the year, and remains the top-ranked team in 4A. But the game could be interpreted as a wake-up call for a squad that had been cruising.

“Teams are going to give us their best shot,” said running back Ellis Jordan. Tholan agreed, saying this game taught them to never underestimate their opponents.

With opponents typically focusing on Derby, it may have been a surprise to see his subpar day after such a big signing just a few hours before. The 6-4 quarterback said he was not distracted by all the college talk before the game, even though it may have seemed that way.

“[Iowa] wasn’t on my mind,” he said. “I didn’t play too well, but my team stepped up and played well. And that’s what good teams do.”

Although throwing the four picks, he did show flashes of great play early and late in the game. A 16-yard touchdown pass to Alex Evans was perfectly coasted over defender Michael Rosenthal’s head to lead off the scoring on the team’s first drive. The final possession of the game for City High relied on Derby’s running game and was capped off by a 2-yard quarterback draw.

While stifling the Cougar offense in the first, an entirely different team came out in the second half for Kennedy. Their first drive in the third quarter, led by quarterback Jed Haycraft, resulted in four first downs and a chance at a 32-yard field goal, which Erik Boyer eventually missed.

In the fourth, Kennedy finally put points on the board with a long drive resulting in a four-yard Haycraft touchdown run.

With under a minute left and a 16-6 lead, it appeared an interception return for touchdown by Eric Taylor — the man named Homecoming king at halftime of the game — would deal the final blow.

Even though his interception opened the way for the late Simmons kickoff return, Taylor seems as though he has no regrets.

“I’ve never gotten a pick six, actually,” he said. “It was nice.”

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