your preparatory sport
No. 10 City High (6-3) at No. 7 Johnston (6-3)
When: Friday, 7 p.m
Where: Johnston High School
The intensity ramps up a notch this week as the playoffs begin for the three largest classes statewide.
Last week the smaller classes started postseason play, but this week all seven classes in Iowa have shrunk to 16 teams.
On Friday it’s all about the places in the quarter-finals and only two victories separate the teams from the coveted place in the state semi-finals in the UNI Dome.
City High is targeting a second straight trip to Cedar Falls and opening the postseason for the second straight season against a Central Iowa team.
Last season, City High defeated CIML member Urbandale in a 5A opening round contest at Bates Field en route to their first semifinal appearance since 2010.
On Friday, the Little Hawks head west on I-80 to take on Johnston in one of the best matchups of the opening round in 5A.
Here’s a quick look at the Your Prep Sports Round of 16 game of the week between No. 10 City High and seventh-placed Johnston.
players to watch
city high – Ben Kueter
It’s easy. In the biggest games, the best players need to make it big.
This is City High’s biggest game of the season, and there might not be a better player in the state than Kueter.
Kueter, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound recruit from Iowa, has been dominant on both sides of the ball this season.
Kueter is third in 5A with 87 tackles, fourth with 23 tackles lost and fifth with seven sacks from his linebacker rank.
On offense, Kueter has done a little bit of everything, scoring touchdowns on receptions, runs and passes.
Kueter has rushed for 415 yards and five touchdowns averaging 8.6 yards per carry and has 15 receptions for 250 yards and three touchdowns and has also thrown a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Expect a big dose of Kueter across the board on Friday as City High seek a return trip to the 5A Quarterfinals.
Johnston – Aidan George
A stingy defense is a big reason Johnston is hosting a home playoff game this season, and perhaps no player has had a better season at the Johnston defense than George.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior defensive end has been a stalwart champion for the Dragons this season, finishing fourth on the team with 40 tackles and leading the Dragons with 14.5 tackles for losses and is tied with 9.5 for most sacks in 5A
George has been one of the most prolific defensemen in the Class 5A over the past two seasons, amassing 71 tackles, 17 sacks and 25 tackles for loss.
Look for George and teammate JT Freeman at the other defensive endpoint to be the keys for the Dragons to slow down a powerful City high-passing attack that ranks third in the 5A at 268 yards per play through the air and has a 5A best 33 touchdown misses.
key to the game
city high – Do business in advance
A revamped City High offensive line has come a long way since the start of the season.
The Little Hawks will face another big Test on Friday in a Johnston front led by defensive ends George and Freeman.
City High can find success in Friday’s passing game.
The Little Hawks have a dynamic quarterback in Drew Larson, Quinton Tran has played brilliantly over the past three weeks while Larson was injured, and City High have a slew of talented receivers led by dynamic senior Akili Mattox, who averages 21.5 yards scored per reception.
Johnson is allowing 161 yards per game this season and has passed for more than 200 yards on four occasions.
The key to City High’s offense Friday will be giving its quarterbacks time to act in passing situations against an aggressive Johnston defense, which leads the Class 5A with 29 sacks.
Johnston – Find a balance
The Dragons are a pass-first offensive and it works.
Second quarterback Will Nuss has threw for 1,573 efficient yards and 16 touchdowns in eight games.
Nuss took care of the ball, throwing only three interceptions to keep the Dragons in good situations.
That plan is unlikely to change on Friday.
What would be a big boost for Johnston would be some juice in the running game.
Johnston is averaging just 58 yards per game on the ground this season while averaging just 2.5 yards per carry.
The Dragons have seen a surge in production as of late they have had their two best rushing attempts of the season with victories over Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Ames to close out the regular season.
On his current three-game winning streak, Johnston is averaging 95 grounded yards per game.
The Dragons don’t need to run many yards to pick up a win on Friday, but against a City High defense that loves to chase quarterbacks and establish some kind of running game, Johnston’s offense could, averaging 21.1 points per Game.
Both teams – Start fast, finish strong
Neither City High nor Johnston have scored a point of attack in the first quarter of a losing game this season.
City High was outscored 37-0 in losses to Liberty High, West Des Moines Dowling and Pleasant Valley in the opening quarter.
Johnston was outplayed 14-2 in the first 12 minutes of losses to Cedar Falls, West Des Moines Dowling and Waukee Northwest.
Games won’t be won in the first quarter but if both sides can take the lead early on Friday and get some quick momentum it would certainly be beneficial in what is expected to be a tight game.
While both teams have struggled to pick up points early this season, the same issues were apparent late on.
City High have seven fourth-quarter points in three losses this season, and the Dragons have been outplayed 21-7 in the fourth quarter of losses.
This game is expected to come into the fourth quarter, so a late result or an early lead could prove crucial.
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