Football season comes to close in Iowa City

The chills of the Friday, Nov. 2 night traveled up the spines of each Tiger football player sprinting out of the locker room with adrenaline rushing as they faced the No. 1 ranked team in the state, the Iowa City West Trojans, in Iowa City. Little did they know, it would be the Tiger seniors’ last time to pump up with the brotherhood they established playing together the last three years.

“I will miss my teammates the most. We have become a family, and I just love being around those guys,” senior Luke Gillett said.

Excitement shot through Gillett’s feet and landed in his palms, where everything starts for the quarterback, leader and face of Tiger football.

Gillett said it was just like any other game. He was ready to play, be focused and looked forward to being on the field, driving for a win alongside his best friends.

“It’s not about winning. As long as you continue to get better, the winning will come on its own,” he said.

Gillett said he is most proud of the way the team played against Iowa City West both times. Playing the No. 1 team and putting up a fight in both games shows a lot about the players, coaches and community.

Going into halftime under the dark sky, the players on the field and scoreboard looked grim. Iowa City West led, 10-3, as players trotted off the field in hopes of firing back up.

Junior Sam Gary, who suffered from a mild shoulder injury versus Cedar Rapids Prairie and still was experiencing pain, wore a brace on that Friday night in Iowa City, but that didn’t stop this tailback.  Running for 193 yards on 32 carries, Gary finally found a home in the end zone with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter, painting a prettier picture on the scoreboard of 13-9.

“I just wanted to win. I wanted to get back to the Dome so it would be like we would be playing at home and right in front of our home crowd,” Gary said.

Gary said he too felt nerves, but once the now 9-2 team took the field roaring, everything eased away, and he was back to business.

He said he felt the coaching staff was amazing throughout the whole year, always preaching hard work, team efforts and the drive for success.

“They were awesome throughout the year,” he said. “They put us in the position to succeed and make big plays.”

The wind blew hard against the backs of Cedar Falls. Flags were thrown and touchdowns were caught, but in the end, the men of Cedar Falls swallowed a tough loss, once again, to Iowa City West, ending 27-9.

“It was a heartbreak. There is no bond I’ll find ever again like I have with these boys,” senior defensive back Daequan Thomas said.

According to Thomas, both offense and defense were well prepared going into this game and fought until the end to show what they were made up. Defensively, he said he wanted to set the tempo stepping onto the field with every play.

“I wanted to be a leader, tell my guys that we gotta stay in it and set a high tempo. One person to spark a fire. In the end, it was just a ‘what if’ situation,” he said.

Thomas said all season long it was a goal to win on Friday nights and for him, it was more than goals, but a dream he was proud to have played for in this community.

“Tiger football is a tradition. It’s very honorable to have played in the Dome, as our home turf, for the crowd that cheered us on,” Thomas said.

Thomas said it was what the team was driven on. They were coached to be the best that they could be. He said the team sas persistent in every aspect, mentally strong and very intense, both in practice and in games.

“Losing wasn’t an option for us,” Thomas said.

Of all the memories shared, these three young men agreed that spending time in practice, long bus rides home and pumping up in the locker room to “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump will forever be instilled into their hearts.

Many of these players will go on playing for another season of high school ball, play for bigger schools at the next level, attend college or go into the workforce. Yet, each player with a number in his back will forever be a known as a Tiger, and the bonds formed will last a lifetime.

“No matter what happened during the day, none of that matters when you step onto the field. You can just play football and not think about anything else,” Gillett said.

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