City High moves on to state semifinals


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Iowa recruit A.J. Derby threw a touchdown on his first pass of the game. And his second. And his fourth.

Derby led Iowa City High one step closer to a 4A state championship with four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in a 35-14 victory over the one-dimensional Cedar Rapids Washington Warriors in a state quarterfinal game on Nov. 6.

The Warriors, despite 190 yards on 33 carries in the game from workhorse Andre Dawson, were down 28-0 at the half because of Derby’s and his team’s big plays in the first half. The most impressive play came early in the second quarter when the team was up 14-0.

On fourth and two at the Little Hawks’ own 28-yard line, Derby lined up in the short punt formation his team has used all year. But on this play, he instead rolled out to the right and found John Chelf open downfield. A run down the sideline and a broken tackle later, Chelf was in for the 72-yard touchdown, and it was 21-0.

“I love fake punts,” said coach Dan Sabers. “I’ve got A.J. Derby back there — is it really that risky?”

After the game, the quarterback/punter smiled as he talked about the call.

“We’ve been saving that all year,” he said.

The initial touchdown came on an amazing 8-yard catch by Chelf, in which he dove and picked the ball out of the air with his fingertips on the side of the end zone.

The next drive, Derby found Adam Prybil on a play-action pass for a 59-yard hookup late in the first quarter.

Washington’s Shay Gutman threw an interception, one of his two on the night, in the red zone to junior Andrew McNulty on the ensuing drive, and then Derby drove home an early dagger in the Warrior’s hopes.

Derby added a 30-yard touchdown run with under a minute left in the half to push the Little Hawk’s lead.

The Warriors scored 14 points in the third to make the game closer, however, with a 5-yard touchdown run by Dawson and then a break from a couple of fumbles.

City High’s Tucker Tholen fumbled after a 15-yard reception, giving the ball back to the Warriors. Then on a fourth and goal, Dawson fumbled into the end zone where it was recovered by receiver Colin Thorson.

But a fourth-quarter drive by City High bled the clock and culminated in a 32-yard touchdown catch by Noah Cmiel that dashed any hopes of a comeback at Bates Field.

Now the Little Hawks are poised for revenge, after Cedar Rapids Xavier defeated Clinton, 28-6, on Nov. 6. Xavier knocked City High out of the playoffs last year, with a 27-3 win in Iowa City in the first round of the playoffs. But this year City High is ranked No. 1 in 4A, and Xavier is unranked during a nine-game winning streak.

During the regular season, the Saints gave the undefeated Little Hawks their closest game of the season, a 24-17 battle at Xavier. Because of the earlier game and how hot both teams are right now, the battle on the UNI-Dome turf has the recipe of a classic. But City High’s coach is never one to have his team shy away from a tough test.

“Xavier is who we’ve wanted to play all along,” Sabers said.

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