CEDAR RAPIDS– The West High Trojans turned a penalty-addled first half into a grinding ground war in the second, pulling off a 35-14 win Thursday night at Kingston Stadium against MVC foe Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
The Trojans took an early 14-0 lead on a pair of Jeremy Morgan touchdowns in the first quarter. The first came in the first two minutes as quarterback Nate Boland connected with Morgan for 39 yards; the second was a 42-yard pass. Mueng Sunday followed the touchdowns with his extra point kicks.
The Cougars regrouped and scored on a 3-yard run by standout Alex Hillyer with 4:14 left in the quarter. Hillyer proved troublesome for the Trojans, racking up 176 yards of rushing on the night. A good extra point kick made it 14-7.
In the second quarter, Micah Kelsey scored on a 2-yard run to give the Trojans a little cushion. Sunday again nailed the extra point and West was up 21-7 with 4:28 left in the half. However, the Cougars scored with a 5-yard pass and 37.3 seconds left on the clock. A good kick made it 21-14 as the buzzer sounded.
Coach Brian Sauser knew some adjustments needed to be made if a win was going to happen. His crew had accrued a dozen penalties for a painful 131 yards including a 15-yard hit from an unsportsmanlike penalty on Dondre Alexander.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined,” Sauser said after the game. “Our guys need to keep our composure, and keep our hands in, and doing a better job of getting back.” His defense also had their hands full trying to contain Hillyer. Sauser said, “(the crew had) poor angles on the outside, (and wasn’t getting penetration, allowing him to get a lead built up ahead of them).”
The second half went from an air assault to an all-out ground war as Sauser commanded his troops to run the ball. “We weren’t going to throw it. Even if we got stuffed on every play, we were going to run it, and run it, and run it until our guys made a decision inside,” he said.
Despite running the football, “up and down the field like crazy,” as Sauser described the half, Morgan got his third touchdown of the night on a 17-yard pass with just under five minutes left in the quarter. Sunday’s kick made it 28-14. The West defense held the Cougars scoreless for the remainder of the half as the Trojans pretty much did what they wanted. Colin Baker got the fifth and final touchdown in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard run. Sunday again made the kick for the 35-14 score.
“We feel like we can throw it most nights,” Sauser said. “But it really felt like all of a sudden, we were becoming soft again. We found out what soft feels like last year, in our last game of the season (West’s quarterfinal loss to Bettendorf).” The coach said the game was a good wakeup call, adding, “we got pretty comfortable in the first couple games, kinda sleep-walking around and putting up big numbers. Kennedy wasn’t gonna let us do that. Our guys did a great job in the second half, answered the bell and shut them out, and we ran the ball like crazy. We knew we were going to run it, they (Kennedy) knew we were going to run it, and they couldn’t do anything about it.”
The win moved the Trojans to 3-0 in the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) Mississippi Division. Kennedy fell to 0-3. The Trojans host Cedar Rapids Prairie Friday, Sept. 14, with the sophomore game set to kick-off at 5 p.m. with the varsity to follow around 7:15 p.m.