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City High moves to 4A title game

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | NOVEMBER 16, 2009 7:22 AM

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CEDAR FALLS — Call it déjà vu.

When the City High Little Hawks played the Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints on Nov. 13 inside the UNI-Dome, it wasn’t the first time the two teams had tangled.

After the Little Hawks watched Xavier celebrate on Bates Field after an opening-round playoff loss in 2008, they wanted nothing more than to send the Saints sailing.

City High senior quarterback and Iowa recruit A.J. Derby said the team did just that, winning 21-3.

“We had a good game plan coming into the game,” said Derby, who had two touchdowns. “We tried to come out and punch them in the face, and we did. We came out, and we’re the more physical team, and that’s what won the game for us.”

Earlier in the season City High handled its Cedar Rapids rivals, 24-17, with the help of a late kickoff return.

This time around, the Little Hawks knew they would have to play better defense to get the win. They answered the call.

City High head coach Dan Sabers said the defense was stout after a mediocre first quarter.

“Overall, I thought we started off a little slowly, but boy, we got it going good after that,” he said. “But our secondary was outstanding. I think one thing we did better this time that we haven’t done in the past is stop their quick screen game out to the perimeter.”

The Little Hawks also held Xavier receiver Colin O’Connor to just 22 yards. Entering the game, he had amassed 1,000 yards.

While City High held Xavier’s passing game in check, the running game was a different story.

In the opening drive, Xavier running back Pat Chizek ground his way to 58 yards, placing his team in scoring position. City High held Chizek without a touchdown despite 156 yards on 21 carries.

“Typical Xavier,” Sabers said. “They play hard and get after you. They do what they can. Our guys matched every bit of their intensity, and we got after them pretty good.”

Junior Andrew McNulty, who had a key interception that resulted in a City High score, lauded the team’s preparation and defensive play this week.

“The first half we really struggled against the run, but we figured it out,” he said. “We just stepped up and answered. We knew they were going to come out at second half really hard, and we knew we had to come out even harder.”

After holding Xavier to an opening-drive field goal, City High got its offense started. Derby hooked up with senior receiver John Chelf for a 24-yard touchdown, and the team then scored 21 unanswered points.

On the Little Hawks’ final touchdown in the third quarter, Sabers called for a play-action pass.

When the play broke down, Derby decided to get creative. The quarterback/ safety/punter said he read the defense and saw the corner following the receiver on a backside post, leaving the left side wide open for a 16-yard City High touchdown run.

“That’s always something we always tell A.J.” Sabers said. “Don’t forget about those legs and how great they are.”

City High will head back to Cedar Falls on Friday to take on undefeated Marshalltown for the 4A state title.

“We’re going to prepare like any other game,” Derby said. “Yeah, it’s the state championship, [but] we’re just going to try to keep our emotions low. We’re going to try to come out and punch them in face like we did against Xavier, and get the win and the state title.”


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