IOWA CITY — Lord, Dan Sabers was born a gamblin’ man. The Iowa City High football coach pulled out the old fake punt despite being on his own 28-yard line in the first half last night.
Roll them dice, baby.
“I love fake punts,” Sabers said after his Little Hawks held off Cedar Rapids Washington, 35-14, in a Class 4A playoff quarterfinal at Bates Field. “Come on, I’ve got A.J. Derby back there. I mean, is it all that risky when you’ve got a man like that back there?”
Good point. Quarterback/punter Derby made the play, throwing a pass to a wide-open John Chelf on the wing that turned into a decisive 72-yard touchdown. The University of Iowa recruit also made a few more, throwing four TD passes and running for another as City High (12-0) moved to next weekend’s semifinals against Cedar Rapids Xavier (9-2).
“We’ve been saving that all year,” Derby said of his 4th-and-2 hookup with Chelf. “We haven’t done any of that in the regular season. We saw that it was open. It was a good call by Coach Sabers. That was huge.”
City High scored twice each in the first and second quarters to run to a 28-0 halftime edge. Chelf dove and caught an 8-yard fade pass to begin the scoring, then Derby hit a play-action pass to a wide, wide open fullback Adam Prybil for a 59-yard TD.
The fake made it 21-0, then Derby rolled out again in the final minute of the first half and ran in untouched from 30 yards.
“Their defense flew hard to the ball, they definitely wanted to stop our run,” said Derby, who completed 9 of 17 for 216 yards and ran for another 90 yards. “So our play action worked out great against them.”
Washington (9-3) did make a second-half run, scoring on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to make it 28-14. The Warriors got as far as the City High 30 early in the fourth, too, but a pass over the middle from Shay Gutman glanced off the hands of Alex Carr, who would have had a touchdown.
City High took over and marched 70 yards for the clinching TD, a 32-yard pass from Derby to wide, wide open tight end Noah Cmiel.
“When we went into the locker room, I saw everybody’s heads down,” said Washington running back Andre Dawson, whose fine career ended with a 189-yard, one-touchdown performance. “I was like ‘You’ve guys have to pick it up. They’re not beating us. We’re beating ourselves … We have to fight for every inch.’”
“They’re a good football team, but I think we played a pretty good game,” Wash Coach Tony Lombardi said. “We just had some errors.”
City High outgained Washington, 404-255. The Warriors’ other touchdown came when Dawson fumbled into the end zone on a fourth-down run near the goal line and wide receiver Colin Thorson fell on it.