Like a lot of coaches around the state, Dan Sabers was a little short on sleep on Saturday.
A long road trip led to a late night that was followed quickly by an early morning for the veteran City High coach.
It’s a feeling Sabers knows well and wouldn’t trade for anything.
“It feels a lot better than being able to sleep in today, there is no question about that,” Sabers said. “Adrenaline will get you through all this. It’s a good situation to be in, there are a lot worse things.”
Sabers got an uncharacteristic early off season last year as City High went 2-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
A year after having a string of 11 consecutive playoff appearances snapped, City High (6-3) will return to the 4A postseason on Wednesday hosting Linn-Mar (4-5) at 7 p.m. at Bates Field.
FULL LIST: First-round Iowa prep football playoff pairings
It is the 22nd time in the last 24 seasons that City High has reached the playoffs.
“I think overall as a staff we were able to keep things in pretty good perspective but it certainly makes you reevaluate everything you do,” Sabers said of missing the playoffs last year. “We certainly did that and we believed that if we continued to work hard and do good things, we believed good things would come our way and that’s kind of what happened this year. Some good came out of it that’s for sure.”
Last year City High’s playoff fate was sealed with a wild 49-42 home loss to Muscatine.
In a measure of redemption, the Little Hawks locked up an opening-round home game with a 42-41 win over the Muskies in Friday’s regular season-finale.
City High has won six of its last seven games entering Wednesday’s playoff opener, the lone loss in that stretch coming to fifth-ranked Cedar Rapids Washington.
“It’s nice to be hosting a game and it’s nice to go down to Muscatine against a good team and win on their field,” Sabers said. “All those things help you be confident in the playoffs.”
West High dropped its season finale on Friday 35-20 at Pleasant Valley but still earned a home playoff game with a second place finish in District 7 despite a 3-6 overall record.
A challenging schedule that included losses to four district champions and a pair of district runner ups contributed to West High’s 3-6 mark.
Heading into Wednesday’s opening round meeting with former MVC rival Cedar Rapids Prairie (4-5) at Trojan Field, West High second-year head coach Garrett Hartwig wasn’t concerned with records.
“I drew a 0-0 on the board and I said that’s our record,” Hartwig said. “That is everybody’s record in the state. I told our team they earned a home game and a team has to come here to match up against us.”
West High has losses to five ranked teams, including four to teams currently ranked in the top five.
West High went 4-3 in the regular season last year before winning back-to-back playoff games to reach the quarterfinals.
The Trojans don’t have a bad loss on their schedule this season, with the six setbacks coming to teams with a combined 46-8 record.
However, starting Wednesday, a loss of any kind means the end of the season.
“We are going to play somebody that is a playoff team, but we’ve played playoff teams all year,” Hartwig said. “We’ve seen the best in the state. We know what that looks like. We have to play better to be at that level and we have to do it now in the playoffs.”
Five-time defending state champion Regina is making its 12th consecutive playoff appearance and will open defense of its Class 1A title at home against Bellevue (4-5).
Top-ranked Regina (8-1) has won 77 of its last 79 games including 25 consecutive postseason wins.
“Half the teams now in the state of Iowa are turning their gear in so you need to cherish every opportunity you get,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “I think our kids are excited about the opportunity and going out and hopefully we can make a nice little run here in the playoffs.”
Elsewhere in 1A, second-ranked West Branch (9-0) is making its eight consecutive playoff appearance and will host Columbus (3-6) in the opening round.
Solon and Clear Creek Amana both face road games to open the Class 3A playoffs.
Winners of five of their last six, Clear Creek Amana (5-4) travels to Maquoketa (6-3) while Solon (5-4) gets a rematch with Washington (7-2).
Mid-Prairie (7-2) will face PCM (7-2) in Class 2A and Lone Tree (6-3) will travel to Lisbon (7-2) in Class A.
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or [email protected] and follow him on Twitter.
All Games start at 7 p.m.
Class 4A: Linn-Mar (4-5) at City High (6-3); Cedar Rapids Prairie (4-5) at West High (3-6).
Class 3A: Solon (5-4) at Washington (7-2); Clear Creek Amana (5-4) at Maquoketa (6-3).
Class 2A: Mid-Prairie (7-2) at PCM, Monroe (7-2).
Class 1A: Bellevue (4-5) at Regina (8-1); Columbus (3-6) at West Branch (9-0).
Class A: Lone Tree (6-3) at Lisbon.