Iowa City High’s A.J. Derby keeps his options open

July 20, 2009
Iowa City High quarterback A. J. Derby carries the ball as Cedar Rapids Xavier's Steven Travis tries, unsuccessfully, to stop his progress during their game on Nov. 3, 2008, at City High School in Iowa City.

Iowa City High quarterback A. J. Derby carries the ball as Cedar Rapids Xavier's Steven Travis tries, unsuccessfully, to stop his progress during their game on Nov. 3, 2008, at City High School in Iowa City.

Iowa City High quarterback A.J. Derby compiles football scholarship offers like others his age collect football cards.

Derby, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior, has scholarship offers from Florida, Louisiana State, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska and several others — “I can’t list them all off but it’s a lot,” he said. Iowa also feverishly has targeted him.

“It’s just kind of wide open right now,” Derby said. “I plan on taking all of my official visits. So I’m going to wait until the school year, then narrow it down to five and decide where I’m going to take my officials.

“It’s wide open. I’m still talking to everyone.”

Derby hopes to take a few of his visits on Saturdays following Thursday night high school games. Iowa City High plays Thursday night games on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 22.

Derby played wide receiver and defensive back for Iowa City High as a sophomore before moving to quarterback last year. He completed 77 of 136 passes for 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing four interceptions. Derby also led Iowa City High in rushing with 1,064 yards on 168 attempts and scored 13 touchdowns.

With Derby’s frame and versatility, many wonder if colleges are recruiting Derby as a quarterback then switch him to tight end, linebacker or safety. Other speculation involves whether Derby could play the role of a running quarterback, like Florida’s Tim Tebow.

“Everyone is recruiting me for quarterback,” Derby said. “Some (schools want him as a running quarterback), and some don’t. Some want me to be a pocket passer. It’s kind of a little of both.”

Derby also faces outside pressure to remain with the hometown school, Iowa. His father, John, was an all-Big Ten linebacker at Iowa. His older brother, Zach, plays tight end at Iowa.

“They tell me to go Iowa all the time,” Derby said of his friends. “These coaches (baseball coaches from Cedar Rapids Kennedy) were trying to tell me to go to Iowa after the game. I’m kind of used to it.

“My dad just said do what you think is right for yourself and don’t just do what he wants, but do what I want.”

“I just try not to think about it too much and try to be a normal kid.”

Ed Thomas on cover of “Sports Illustrated” this week

June 30, 2009

Here’s the cover:

Ed Thomas SI

Ed Thomas helped save Parkersburg

June 24, 2009

When a tornado virtually destroyed Parkersburg last year, Ed Thomas stood tall and fought for the town’s survival.

Where would that town be today without Ed Thomas? Certainly the school district moves all home football games to Aplington. Maybe the school district decides to build a new high school at another location. It’s not that far-fetched that the school district would have considered combining with another nearby district.

Maybe many in the town decide to move away to other communities, possibly the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area. Instead, Thomas demanded the high school remain in Parkersburg. He picked up debris and glass shrapnel on the football field and demanded the school play its first game following the tornado at the “Sacred Acre.”

Ed Thomas won nearly 300 football games and two state titles in his lifetime. But he may have saved Parkersburg with his strong character and leadership last year. That’s a memory that will outlast any of his victories.

On the scene in Parkersburg

June 24, 2009

Ed Thomas was the symbol for hope last year after a tornado ravaged half of Parkersburg and killed six people.

The former Aplington-Parkersburg football coach was gunned down today allegedly by former player Mark Becker in front of his players and other student athletes. He was 58.

People are shocked around town. I broke the news to an elderly couple who were driving around town. The man wept within seconds.

Thomas represented the hard-nosed, mentally tough approach that dignify rural Iowans. He was a man’s man, a leader and more than a coach to these people.

Hundreds of people have set flowers near the football field that bears his name. A press conference with Thomas’ family is set for 4 p.m. I will update following this emotional scene.

If any community can overcome this, it’s Parkersburg. But the real question is, why should anyone have to overcome something like?

Future Hawkeye FB player wins state, gets revenge, meets Shawn Johnson

June 6, 2009

johnson_shawn_5Had Marcus Kloos participated in the Class 1A state soccer tournament this week, Saturday’s championship might have capped a perfect week.

Kloos (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) will walk on and play football at Iowa, but suffered a broken fibula a week before the district tournament and was unable to play. But he was the first player to hold the championship trophy and hobbled with his teammates to greet the Regina fans after the Regals beat Council bluffs St. Albert 1-0.

Kloos and his Regina teammates met Olympic gold medalist — and West Des Moines junior — Shawn Johnson at dinner earlier this week. Johnson wrote “Go Hawks! Shawn Johnson” on Kloos’ bright yellow cast.

“We met her at dinner the first night we were here and all of us starting freaking out. It’s Shawn Johnson!” Kloos said. “So they figured they’d send me out first, the kid with a broken leg, and we all got her autograph. I’m pretty ecstatic, actually. I’m very happy about that.”

Even though he didn’t play, Kloos took some satisfaction in watching Regina dump St. Albert in a championship game. In 2007, St. Albert beat Regina 7-6 in the Class 1A state football championship. Kloos rushed five times for 22 yards and had five tackles in that game.

“I feel their pain, because I remember last year, 7-6 in the state finals,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve watched that game since then. It’s a little revenge on my part.”

Darian Cotton a future Hawkeye?

June 2, 2009

Just emptying my notebook after state track about 10 days ago …

Darian Cotton rushed for 851 yards and six touchdowns last year as a sophomore for Mount Pleasant. He also caught 15 passes and scored on an interception return. Not too bad for a player competing in a secondary role.

Darian’s older brother, Jordan, will play football at Iowa this fall. Their father, Marshall, played at Iowa from 1984-87. It’s no secret that Darian Cotton would like to follow the family legacy up Highway 218 and join the Hawkeyes in two years.

“Iowa has been like giving me different recruiting things, like asking me to go to their camps,” said Darian, who was competing at the Class 3A state track meet in Des Moines last month. “I was offered to go to their spring game to watch, and I like that a lot.

“HopefullyI get to play there.”

Some observers say Darian has more potential than his brother, but that’s debatable. Jordan Cotton rushed for 1,548 yards and 25 touchdowns last year for Mount Pleasant and will play wide receiver at Iowa.

Darian Cotton finished sixth in the Class 3A long jump last month in Des Moines. The brothers are very close, as demonstrated at the state track meet. Jordan Cotton was injured at the state track meet in May and did not participate after the first day.

Wyatt Suess keeps level-headed approach to joining Iowa football

May 27, 2009

Cedar Rapids Washington quarterback Wyatt Suess (17) runs for a gain of three yards against Cedar Falls in a semifinal playoff game at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls on Nov. 14, 2008.

Cedar Rapids Washington quarterback Wyatt Suess (17) runs for a gain of three yards against Cedar Falls in a semifinal playoff game at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls on Nov. 14, 2008.

Wyatt Suess went out for track to get in shape for football.

The Cedar Rapids Washington senior is a preferred walk-on at Iowa this fall and wanted to gain some speed before hitting the field this fall. Suess led off Washington’s 4×100-meter relay team that finished fifth at state last weekend. Washington ended up winning the state meet, its first state track title since 1977.

“Obviously, we’re really happy about this,” Suess said moments after the relay team clinched the state title. “It’s pretty exciting for us.”

Suess, the son of former Iowa starting quarterback Phil Suess, now is focused on football. He’s the only recruited quarterback in this year’s class but immediately finds himself at best fourth on the depth chart. As of right now, he’s OK with that.

“I  just want to go in there and show them what I’ve got and if it works out, maybe I’ll move up the depth chart,” Suess said. “It is an advantage coming in. I don’t have a ton of expectations.

 Washington football video

“This summer I’m going to try to work really hard and get my strength up and my speed up. It’s mainly why I came out for track and for a state title. The next few years I know I’m not going to play, but I’m going to work hard and hopefully get a scholarship eventually and just make the team better and do the best I can.”

Suess stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds. He earned Class 4A all-state honors last fall for Washington, throwing for 3,163 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Suess helped Washington reach the state semifinals in football and also helped lead Washington to the basketball substate finals.

Suess will join former teammate Keenan Davis at Iowa. Davis was an all-state wide receiver at Washington and also played basketball and ran track with Suess this year.

With his size and speed, Suess has left open the possibility to switching positions at Iowa.

“I’ve just got to work hard,” he said. “If I switch positions, then I’ll switch positions. Just do anything I can do to get on the field.

“If they want me to move positions, then track has helped me get my speed up. It’ll help me in the long run.”

Keenan Davis to challenge for starting spot at Iowa?

May 26, 2009
Keenan Davis (left) and Ronnie Henderson, both of Cedar Rapids Washington, compete in the 100-meter dash finals during the 23rd annual Warrior Wilkinson Relays at Thomas Park in Marion on May 1, 2009. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Keenan Davis (left) and Ronnie Henderson, both of Cedar Rapids Washington, compete in the 100-meter dash finals during the 23rd annual Warrior Wilkinson Relays at Thomas Park in Marion on May 1, 2009. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Keenan Davis sang the Cedar Rapids Washington fight song, wrapped himself in the Class 4A state championship flag and lifted track teammate Lewi Manirumva into the air moments before Washington was announced as the state’s best track team last Saturday in Des Moines.

Davis paced Washington to victory in the 4×200-meter relay and top five finishes in the 4×100 and the distance medley relay. It was a crowning moment to a brilliant high school career for Davis.

Now, it’s on to bigger and more high-profile events for Davis at the University of Iowa. It’s possible he’ll challenge to get on the football field this fall. In two weeks, he’ll head to Iowa’s summer training program and take his physical. Davis plans to stay in Iowa City through the summer to train and lift. The summer program begins June 8.

Cedar Rapids Washington wide receiver Keenan Davis pulls in a pass over Ross Siemering of Cedar Rapids Prairie during the first half at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids on Sept. 12, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids Washington wide receiver Keenan Davis pulls in a pass over Ross Siemering of Cedar Rapids Prairie during the first half at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids on Sept. 12, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Davis, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs more than 200 pounds, caught 133 passes for 2,017 yards and 18 touchdowns the last two years at Washington. He was a two-time all-state wide receiver.

Davis also helped Washington’s basketball team reach the Class 4A substate finals and led the Warriors in scoring with 14.2 points a game.

“I’m going to try my hardest to be a leader and be out there and do what I have to do and be the player I can be,” Davis said.

It’s possible Davis could wind up starting for Iowa at wide receiver, based on Iowa’s recent track record at the position. In 2006, Iowa started true freshman Dominique Douglas at wide receiver. In 2007, red-shirt freshman James Cleveland started every game at the position. Both players have left Iowa followinare with Iowa right now.

Iowa returns three players with extensive experience at wide receiver, including past starters Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Trey Stross, key contributors Colin Sandeman and Paul Chaney Jr., and former quarterback Marvin McNutt. Stross and McNutt are listed as the starters following spring practice.

“I feel like if I compete and do everything right and do everything the way I’m supposed to do, yeah, I can get on the field,” Davis said. “But there are other people competing for that spot and if they compete better than me and do what they have to do, then they’ll be on the field. It’s just a toss-up.”

CR Washington earns state title

May 23, 2009

DES MOINES — Keenan Davis wrapped himself with the championship flag. He couldn’t help himself, it was there sitting there waiting for him.

Davis, a senior, gathered his Cedar Rapids Washington teammates together moments before the Warriors accepted the ultimate team goal in track: the state championship trophy. Washington’s athletes jumped up and down chanting, “We won state, we won state.”

Yes, they did. Washington became the first Cedar Rapids metro school to claim the Class 4A state title since 1977. Washington, which won state titles in 1975 and 1977, scored 60 points to beat Mississippi Valley Conference rival Iowa City West by four points.

“All year, we’ve been saying we need a state championship,” said Davis, who will play wide receiver for Iowa next fall. “As seniors, that’s all we dreamed about ever since we were little kids.”

Washington led throughout the three-day state meet and survived a few misses. Saturday, the Warriors entered the shuttle hurdle finals with the best preliminary time in the class. But lead-off runner Larry Johnson tripped over the sixth hurdle and nearly was disqualified. But Johnson gathered himself quickly and the Warriors finished fourth in the event.

“I didn’t lift my leg up on the shuttle hurdle, and it just kind of caught me this time,” Johnson said. “I just clipped it. I was in the lead and you win some and you lose some.”

But Johnson turned around a gutsy effort in the 110-meter high hurdles. He entered the round seeded fourth and placed second. That was one event that Washington Coach Bill Pinckney thought decided the meet’s outcome.

“You have ups and downs at the state meet and the kids responded,” Pinckney said. “They responded. If we lost in one event, we got kickbacks in other events.

“One of the ones that comes to mind is the shuttle hurdle. Larry caught a hurdle, almost went down and almost touched the next hurdle with his hands. He didn’t then he turns around, comes in fifth in the highs and gets second. That was a getback we had to have. It was huge.”

It wasn’t easy, and city rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy made sure it would hang on until the end. Kennedy finished in a fourth-place tie and won two events Saturday morning. Kyle Slaymaker won the 800 in 1:54.34.

“Last year I got boxed in and I was just trying to get out as quick as I could,” Slaymaker said. “I wasn’t sure if I had my pace set very well and I knew I came through in like 57 or so. I knew I was going to have to pick it up if I wanted to get a good time.

Kennedy took advantage of Washington’s early mistake in the shuttle hurdle and stormed past everyone to win that event. Iowa City West also gave Washington a ferocious challenge. The Trojans won the 4×100 and posted top-five finishes in the 100, 200 and 1,600.

Washington clinched the title in the the 4×100, the meet’s second-to-last race, with a fifth-place finish.

It was Washington’s day and weekend. The Warriors accepted their trophy and sang the school fight song. Amid sprinkles to the west of Drake Stadium, it was their perfect ending, one they all will remember.

“It’s not about one person; it’s about the whole team,” said Washington sophomore Alex Carr. “That’s nice. It feels good.”

Alburnett’s Thoreson wins one, anchors another for state title

May 23, 2009

DES MOINES — Kyle Thoreson stayed fresh, cooled down at the right time and produced major results for Alburnett.

Thoreson, a junior, won the 200-meter dash and anchored Alburnett’s 4×100 relay team to victory Saturday at the Class 1A state track meet at Drake Stadium.

Thoreson finished fourth in the 100 and had a quick turnaround to compete in the 200. He was able to regroup and won in 22.33 seconds.

“I thought it was an OK start,” Thoreson said. “I’m not known for the best starts in the world, but I was happy with this one.”

Thoreson anchored Alburnett’s 4×100 and fought neck-and-neck with Madrid’s Cody Matthewson down the stretch. Thoreson pulled it out with a lean at the end.

“I felt him there,” Thoreson said. “I saw him in the corner of his eye, so I just dug deep because I really wanted to win for the three seniors on our team.”

Clear Creek-Amana won the Class 3A shuttle hurdle relay in 59.37. The final turned into a virtual WaMac meet with Clear Creek-Amana edging Benton Community and Vinton-Shellsburg for the win.

Clear Creek-Amana’s four hurdlers all had Mohawk-styled haircuts to express uniformity.

“We just wanted to individualize each other like a team bond, and we actually just shaved his (Alex Novak’s) this morning,” said Hunter Stokes, who ran the third leg.

Waukon’s Jordan Ashbacher finished third in the Class 3A 800 run in 1:57.85. He caught Sioux City Heelan’s Matt Lord at the end.

“I knew that if I could stay up with that front pack I’d be doing pretty good,” Ashbacher said. “This is my last race of my senior year. Jut give it all I got and I think I could get him.”

Iowa City Regina sophomore Daniel Bonthius took second in the Class 2A 800 in 1:56.89. North Tama’s shuttle hurdle team placed second in 1:00.48.


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