[Thursday] Night Lights 2014, Week 6

Thursday night lights? That’s right! Cedar Rapids Prairie and City High played tonight at Bates Field.

Why? I am not 100 percent sure, but I am willing to bet the game was bumped to Thursday because of a band competition scheduled for Friday.

Thursday night high school games happen often in Iowa’s larger cities, where high schools share a municipal stadium. Schools share stadiums in Davenport, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and maybe Council Bluffs and Sioux City. (I am not sure what the situation is in Des Moines, and I think Waterloo East and West have their own stadiums. Ames, I just learned, has a single public high school.) When double home games are scheduled on the same week, one school will play Thursday night, the other Friday night. City High and West High both played home games at Bates Field before 1994, when Trojan Field opened. (Trojan Field had actually been completed for at least a year or two before it opened, but it did not have floodlights.) I assume the Little Hawks and Trojans played Thursday night games back then, so that likely means tonight’s game was the first Thursday night high school football game played in Iowa City since 1993. I was hoping the P-C or CRG would have information about that, but I did not see anything.

Now that I have that nerdiness out of the way, let’s move on to the game.

The Little Hawks came into the game an uncharacteristic 0-5 and Prairie 3-2. City High took the opening kickoff and gashed the Prairie defense with long runs. However, the Little Hawks fumbled and Prairie took over on the City High 14. After a three-and-out and a short punt, the Little Hawks started the ball in plus territory. A nine-yard QB run into the end zone finished a 48-yard drive and CHS took the lead, 7–0. Prairie fumbled on the first play of their next possession and City High’s QB made them pay, scoring a TD on a three-yard sneak to push the lead to 14–0.

Prairie drove the ball down the field on their next drive. On third- or fourth-and-goal, it looked like a Prairie lineman jumped before the snap. However, the refs swallowed their whistles and Prairie ran the ball across the goal line. An unsportsmanlike penalty on the Hawks (Prairie’s nickname is simply “Hawks”) nullified the ensuing PAT and Prairie missed the second attempt from the 18-yard line, keeping the score 14–6.

After a Little Hawk three-and-out and punt, Prairie’s QB busted a long run up the middle. It looked like he could have gotten more yardage, but he essentially stopped and let himself be tackled. I assumed he was out of gas, didn’t want to be run down from behind, or have the ball stripped. My dad, though, didn’t empathize and called the kid a chickenshit. The drive stalled, though, and Prairie punted. The Little Hawks then gave the ball right back after a long QB run of their own. While being tackled, City High’s QB had the ball stripped as he was rolling over a defender. Prairie then drove the ball to the City High three-yard line. On third-and-goal, the Hawks passed. Not a good idea. A Little Hawk defender jumped into the path of the ball, intercepted it, and returned it nearly 40 yards. City High turned insult into injury when the Little Hawks’ QB busted a 57-yard TD run, pushing the lead to 21–6.

The Little Hawks intercepted another Prairie pass on the next drive and their offense drove inside the Prairie 10. However, a high snap pushed them back to the 25 and the kicker missed a 42-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half.

After the halftime band performance (the first featuring snazzy new band uniforms) and the crowning of the homecoming king and queen, the Hawks opened the second half with a 77-yard scoring drive, capped by an excellent 28-yard reception in the end zone. Down 21–13, the Hawks looked to have a newfound confidence and fight after being pushed around in the first half. In the third quarter, with a steady drizzle coming down, the Prairie defense notched an interception and kept the Little Hawks from gaining a single first down. On offense, the Hawks cut the City lead to one point after scoring a touchdown on a wide receiver sweep to the left, and then took the lead, 23–21, early in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard field goal. (Yeah — 47 yards!)

After falling behind for the first time, the Little Hawks started a drive on their own 9. They drove the ball near midfield, then had to punt. The QB’s pooch kick was perfect, rolling deep into Prairie territory and out of bounds at the Prairie nine-yard line. Not so perfect was my dad and I deciding to leave. We packed up our seat pads and headed out, keeping an eye on the game as we walked to First Avenue. The Little Hawks held Prairie to a three-and-out and got excellent field position after a Prairie punt. Starting somewhere near Prairie’s 40, the Little Hawks got their first quarter groove back and gashed the Prairie defense on the ground. On one play, City High’s running back was wrapped up by Prairie defenders inside the 20. He refused to go down and his teammates pushed him 10 yards closer to the goal line. My dad and I watched from outside the stadium, through the fence, as the Little Hawks ran the ball into the end zone with 1:34 left in the game. A failed PAT made the score 27–23.

Prairie needed a touchdown. Could they get it? As we walked back to my parent’s house, we heard the home crowd roar and a barely audible “interception” announcement from the PA. Back at home, we watched the Little Hawks bleed the clock on KCRG 9.2. After a turnover on downs, Prairie had .4 seconds to work with. A Hail Mary fell short and the Little Hawks notched their first win of the season.

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