Friday Night Lights 2014: Week 3

Burr! It was a cold night at Bates Field for the inaugural matchup between the Little Cyclones of Ames and the Little Hawks. It rained for much of the day and I doubt the high temperature reached 55ºF. The metal bleachers were both cold and wet. Everyone was bundled up and I could see my breath before kickoff.

I was also flying solo tonight. My dad was away and my mom chose the comfort and warmth of the living room. I did not call anybody else because I knew they would be working or cat napping on their couch (Mervgotti).

Obviously, tonight’s game was the high school version of the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry. (I entered the stadium behind an Ames-supporting family. The father said, “Huh. The Little Hawks aren’t wearing black and gold.”) It is no doubt one of the more creative matchups now possible since 4A schools in eastern Iowa switched to the district system. Whether or not it was going to be an exciting game was another matter. I did not see the latest KCRG/Gazette/KGYM poll this week, but I am pretty sure Ames was ranked in the Top 10. The Little Cyclones were the third straight Top 10 opponent the Little Hawks faced to open the season. City High’s running game has been as nonexistent as that of the Big Hawks’, which is not good. However, the Little Hawks’ passing game was the bright spot against Bettendorf last week. The P-C reported that sophomore Nate Wieland — who’s older brother, Mitch, started at QB last year — completed a City High record 31 passes last week. (The previous record was 25 set in 1983.)

Anyway, there was much ceremony to open the game. The traveling trophy, sponsored by Hy-Vee, was introduced by Hy-Vee-employed City High alums in both Ames and IC. (I think the announcer said the Ames Hy-Vee rep was a CHS alum. I can’t remember, though.) Then, right before kickoff, a mystery guest was driven onto the track by an ICPD cruiser to deliver the game ball. Before he emerged from the cruiser, the announcer said he is easily recognizable and well respected in both Ames and Iowa City. A few people behind me thought it was Tim Dwight, but then I wondered if it would be CHS alum and former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney. Nope. It was Dan Gable.

City High kicked off to open the game and Ames drove the ball 75 yards in less than two minutes to take the lead, 7–0, on a 23-yard screen pass. City High answered with a 75-yard run by their scat back. However, the ensuing PAT was no good, so the score was 7–6.

On the next drive, Ames drove deep into CHS territory. An excellent, diving touchdown catch was negated by a holding penalty that pushed the Little Cyclones back to the 30 yard line. The penalty killed the drive and Ames punted. City High began a long drive on their own 20. They kept it alive with a fake punt, but another fourth down conversion attempt resulted in an interception.

Ames notched a field goal to push the score to 10–6. After recovering a CHS fumble two drives later, Ames scored on a 29-yard QB run to increase their lead to 17–6. On the ensuing drive, City High’s scat back busted another long run. To me it looked like he took the handoff from the QB and was moving laterally to run outside. However, a hole opened in the line and he stopped, turned, and busted loose, driving the ball inside the Ames 5 yard line. The Little Hawks scored a few plays later and converted a 2-point conversion to make the score 17–14.

At this point in the game the cold was getting to me. I wore a sweatshirt, jacket, pants, and my running gloves, but I was chilled. I should have worn my Triclimate and taken a blanket to sit on. Those bleachers were cold!

On the next drive, Ames was pinned inside its own 10 yard line after an illegal block on the kickoff, and then punted after pushing the ball toward midfield. City High started their next drive on their own 20. After failing to gain 10 yards, the Little Hawks’ QB rolled out on fourth down from the CHS 27 yard line. His pass was incomplete and Ames took over deep inside City High territory. It was definitely a questionable call, and it looked even worse after Ames scored on the very next play to push the score to 24–14.

At halftime, the refs sat around a Gatorade cooler in the equipment shed. Were they drinking Gatorade? Hmm… Throughout the game, a group of three older men kept talking about schnapps and I could not help thinking the refs were warming up with a couple shots. When one of the refs walked up into the bleachers and up to the concourse, one of the older men yelled, “Get the man a drink!”

I was cold and knew I would not stay much longer, but I wanted to see the first couple drives of the third quarter. City High received the second half kickoff but punted after a three-and-out. Ames returned the punt to the Little Hawks’ 1 yard line and punched the ball into the end zone on the next play, extending their lead to 31–14. I wanted to see if City High could answer, but the Little Hawks punted after three incomplete passes.

That was it for me. I was cold enough and decided to head home. Needless to say, my bike ride back was very chilly. Ames eventually won, 44–20. (Iowa City’s public high school football teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory. West lost, 28–0, to Cedar Rapids Washington tonight, so both City and West have losing records (0-3 and 1-2, respectively).)

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