IOWA CITY — With Cedar Falls’ defense closing in on him time after time, Iowa West quarterback Evan Flitz showcased the composure and savvy of a master escape artist Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Flitz used his scrambling ability to buy time for his receivers and create the key plays when it mattered most as No. 1-ranked Iowa City West defeated No. 5 Cedar Falls, 27-9, on Trojan Field.
“He’s a brilliant kid, excellent student, and that’s reflected in his play,” Iowa City West coach Garrett Hartwig said of Flitz, who passed for 150 yards and rushed for another 43. “When you play enough football, the game slows down and I think that’s what is happening for Evan right now.”
In a first half that featured just one touchdown, the Trojan quarterback found an exit toward the sideline before locating Austin West in the end zone from 18 yards out. With the game hanging in the balance early in the fourth quarter, Flitz escaped the grasp of a Cedar Falls defender and extended the drive on a third-down late hit call, before running in a sweep from 10 yards out to push a four-point lead to 11.
“He’s done it all year,” Cedar Falls coach Brad Remmert said. “You watch it on film and that was one of our keys tonight, was to try and keep him in the pocket. Our defense fought and clawed.”
Cedar Falls finished a strong bounce-back playoff season 9-2 with both losses coming to the state’s top-ranked team. In their previous meeting, Iowa City West orchestrated a second-half rally and won on a conversion pass during a Week 3 overtime thriller inside the UNI-Dome.
A Cedar Falls defense that had allowed just 8.4 points a game kept Iowa City West’s potent attack in check throughout much of this night, holding the Trojans to field goals twice after crossing the 10-yard line. But the Tigers were unable to overcome a dramatic swing of turnovers at a pivotal moment in the second half.
Trailing 10-3 after a first half in which three successful drives stalled, Cedar Falls limited Iowa City West to a field goal on its opening 12-play drive of the third quarter. The Tigers answered with a 13-play, 58-yard march featuring punishing runs by Sam Gary, who punched the ball in on fourth down from the goal line to cut the deficit to 13-9 with the third stanza coming to a close.
Cedar Falls then forced a turnover when Tate Johnson recovered a fumble, only to give the ball back two plays later on a fumble. Iowa City West looked stopped on the ensuing sequence before Flitz slipped a tackle and drew the penalty to extend his scoring drive.
Cedar Falls failed to convert a fourth down in its own territory on the ensuing drive and the Trojans tacked on a late score.
“We put a good drive together, got it to 13-9, and we got the turnover that we were looking for,” Remmert said. “Then unfortunately we handed it back. We had some opportunities, we just didn’t take care of them. We lost to a good football team.”
Cedar Falls struggled to find consistency in its passing game after quarterback Luke Gillett threw for 295 yards inside the UNI-Dome in their first encounter.
Gillett was sacked seven times and held to 112 yards passing.
“We had to get in (Gillett’s) face because he’s one of the best in the state,” Hartwig said. “They had the receivers to play with, but our guys deserve a lot of credit for that. They did a great job.”
Cedar Falls’ Remmert took pride in the leadership his senior class provided, helping Cedar Falls make a jump from the last team left out of the playoffs a year ago to a championship contender this fall.
“Our captains Keegan Larson, Colin Klatt, Luke Gillett, Austin Smiley, those guys were key cogs to what we did in our offseason,” Remmert said. “They provided great leadership and it carried over into our season.
“It hurts tonight because we really thought we had a team that could get back into the semis or further and it didn’t happen. They’ve done a lot of things for this program and we really appreciate that.”
I.C. West 27, Cedar Falls 9
Cedar Falls 0 3 6 0 — 9
I.C. West 7 3 3 14 — 27
ICW — Austin West 24 pass from Evan Flitz (Lucas Karwal kick)
ICW — FG Karwal 23
CF — FG Matthew Cook 40
ICW — FG Karwal 20
CF — Gary 1 run (kick failed)
ICW — Flitz 10 run (Karwal kick)
ICW—Cole Mabry 2 run (Karwal kick)
First downs 18 18
Rushes-yards 45-177 32-176
Comp-att-int 11-20-0 13-19-0
Passing yards 112 150
Punts-avg 2-28 2-19
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 6-45 3-20
CEDAR FALLS — Sam Gary 32-196, Luke Gillett 13-minus 19.
IOWA CITY WEST — Trumell Roberts 17-130, Evan Flitz 8-43, Andre White 4-3, Cole Mabry 1-2.
CEDAR FALLS — Gillett 11-19-0, 112 yards, Gary 0-1-0.
IOWA CITY WEST — Flitz 13-19-0, 150 yards.
CEDAR FALLS — Blake Christensen 7-68, Dalton Closson 1-14, Reese Gardner 1-7, Logan Wolf 2-23.
IOWA CITY WEST — Traevis Buchanan 3-35, Jalen Gaudet 6-81, Austin West 2-34, Owen McAreavy 1-3, Jonathan Gannon 1-minus 3.