Chico Lizarraga was given the keys to the Kennedy offense Thursday night at Kingston Stadium and he played a near perfect football game.
Because of the defensive adjustments Iowa City West was making, Kennedy Coach Tim Lewis told Lizarraga, the Cougars' senior quarterback, to survey the set and call the play at the line of scrimmage.
Lizarraga responded with a career-best 347 passing yards and two touchdowns.
But the only blemish in his breakout performance proved to be fatal. A second-quarter fumbled pitch resulted in an Iowa City West touchdown that gave the Trojans a two-touchdown advantage. Kennedy never got closer than seven points the rest of the game and the No. 9 Trojans won, 35-28.
"We had a couple of big plays that were called back in the first half and in big games you can't do that," Lewis said. Kennedy had a kickoff return to the Iowa City West 36 and a 34-yard pass play that would have put the ball at the West 35 nullified by penalties.
And then came the fumble.
Kennedy trailed 14-7 late in the second quarter when Lizarraga fumbled the snap then pushed a pitch over the head of Alex Hillyer. West recovered at the Kennedy 20 and five plays later the Trojans' Anthony Brown punched into the end zone from the 2-yard line for a 21-7 lead with 1:14 left in the half.
"That was a big mistake," Lizarraga said. "I lost the snap, then I tossed it high. It was an 'Oh, no' type of thing. I rushed it and it came back to get us at the end of the game."
"The bottom line is that we shot ourselves in the foot too many times and it came back to haunt us in the end," Lewis said.
Trevor Heitland scored four touchdowns for Kennedy (3-4), hauling in scoring passes of 41 and 62 yards, and ran for two more.
Iowa City West (6-1) rolled up 309 yards of rushing offense. All five Trojans touchdowns came via the run. Richard Bryant had a 64-yard scoring jaunt and finished with 134 yards. Quarterback Charles Rogers ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 145 yards. Brown carried the ball 19 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Dondre Alexander caught nine passes for 111 yards.
Despite running for only 82 yards, Kennedy kept hanging in.
"They did a great job of taking away what we do best," Lewis said of the West defense. Since switching to a Stack-I in Week 3, Kennedy had rushed for 939 yards the past four weeks. The Cougars were averaging about 113 yards passing in their previous six games.
But West's speed on defense thwarted the running game, so Lewis called upon Lizarraga to navigate the offense.
"The second half, we just ran a lot of 'check-with-me' (plays) at the line of scrimmage because they were giving us some bubbles," Lewis said. "We didn't always have the right play called and they did a good job of guessing right. So, in the second half, one of the things that really helped us out was our 'check-with-me's' with (Lizarraga) at the line."
While Lizarraga discovered a few bubbles, he found more open windows in the West secondary. Kennedy rushed for 44 yards in the second half, but Lizarraga passed for 202.
"When I saw a window, I just trusted my arm and threw it," said Lizarraga, who also is a strong-armed catcher on the baseball team.
The window needed only to be opened a crack. Late in the game Lizarraga rifled a strike between two defenders to senior Josh Jahlas for 27 yards to the West 1. Heitland's fourth touchdown ,a 1-yard run, pulled the Cougars within 35-28 with 3:18 left in the game.
"I believed that we were going to come back," Lizarraga said. "We were fighting so hard."
Kennedy's Eric Bertroche attempted an onsides kickoff, but the ball popped high and out of bounds, giving the Trojans the ball at the West 39.
It looked bleak for the Cougars. Kennedy had stopped West and forced a punt three possessions in the first half, but the Trojans controlled the ball in the second half, missing a field goal and scoring two touchdowns in three possessions.
But Kennedy's defense stiffened. Tommy Kaiser's sack of Rogers for a 13-yard loss forced a West punt from its own 25.
Kennedy got the ball back at its own 39 with 2:43 to play, but on first down West's Ezra Reiners blitzed and tossed Lizarraga for a 10-yard loss. A third-and-17 pass went through Heitland's hands. He snagged the next one and gained 15 yards, but was two yards shy of the first down.
"You see guys on Sunday do the same thing," Lewis said of Heitland's missed catch. "He had a great game.
"You don't have a lot of third-and-long plays in your playbook, so there were a few plays we drew up late on the sidelines and the guys did a great job of executing them."
West got the ball back with 1:46 left and ran out the clock.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Kennedy," West Coach Brian Sauser said. "We had them outmanned at some spots, but, boy, they're fundamentally sound. On defense they do things right and on offense they execute. If you're going to make mistakes and give them a window, they'll take it."
Kennedy plays at winless Waterloo West next Friday and closes out the season at home against Dubuque Wahlert on Oct. 21.
"The goal is to win our next two games and then we might see West again in the playoffs," Lizarraga said.
"We've been in this situation before," Lewis said. "You win as many games as you can to get a decent seed in the playoffs. That's what we're focusing on."
Iowa City West hosts Cedar Rapids Washington next Friday night.
IOWA CITY WEST 35, KENNEDY 28
Iowa City West 7 14 0 14 - 35
Kennedy 7 0 7 14 - 28
CRK - Trevor Heitland 41 pass from Chico Lizarraga (Jordan Holzer kick)
ICW - Richard Bryant 64 run (Alex Troester kick)
ICW - Charles Rogers 41 run (Troester kick)
ICW - Anthony Brown 2 run (Troester kick)
CRK - Heitland 10 run (Holzer kick)
ICW - Brown 3 run (Troester kick)
CRK - Heitland 62 pass from Lizarraga (Holzer kick)
ICW - Rogers 22 run (Troester kick)
CRK - Heitland 1 run (Holzer kick)
First downs -- ICW 23, CRK 17
Rushes yards -- ICW 49-309, CRK 36-82
Receiving yards -- ICW 145, CRK 347
Comp-Att-Int -- ICW 15-26-0, CRK 16-28-0
Punts-avg. -- ICW 4-36.0, CRK 4-40.8
Fumbles-lost -- ICW 1-0, CRK 2-1
Penalties-yards -- ICW 8-55, CRK 3-20
Rushing -- ICW: Richard Bryant 13-134, Charles Rogers 15-98, Anthony Brown 19-80, Team 2-(minus-3). CRK: Alex Hillyer 19-49, Trevor Heitland 11-44, Shane Williams 1-(minus-4), Chico Lizarraga 5-(minus-7).
Passing -- ICW: Rogers 15-26-0-145. CRK: Lizarraga 16-28-0-347.
Receiving -- ICW: Dondre Alexander 9-111, Jeremy Morgan 5-30, Mondo Williams 1-4. CRK: Josh Jahlas 6-112, Heitland 4-120, Hillyer 4-87, Williams 1-16, Jonah Heskje 1-12.
Sophomore score - Iowa City West 38, Kennedy 24
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