Iowa City High and City West football teams meet in the Battle for the Boot under unique circumstances

This year’s edition of the local rivalry may be the final guaranteed game for both schools as athletics in ICCSD are set to pause on Sept. 8.


Katie Goodale

Iowa City High Wide Receiver Jovan Harris looks back to catch a pass during the Iowa City High vs. Davenport Central football game at Iowa City High on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. The Little Hawks defeated the Blue Devils 35-14. Due to COVID-19, Iowa City High players were asked to wear masks and fans weren’t allowed in the stands. Davenport Central’s players were not required to wear masks. Davenport Central saw some fans turn out to their section of the stadium and City High fans gathered outside of school property along the fence.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Iowa City High will take on Iowa City West on Friday night in the 2020 football edition of the Battle for the Boot rivalry. When the final second ticks off the game clock, players on both sidelines likely won’t know when they will take the field again.

Athletics in the Iowa City Community School District are set to pause following the district’s board of directors voting unanimously on Aug. 29 to start the school year fully online. The stoppage for all district athletic events is scheduled to start Sept. 8, the district’s first day of school.

The Iowa Department of Education said in August that “in-person activities and practices would need to be suspended during the period of 100 percent remote learning.”

The district’s three high schools — City High, West, and Liberty High — will be in an online-only model the first two weeks of the school year. Athletics will not be reinstated until the return to a hybrid learning model.

“It’s always in the back of our heads,” Iowa City West quarterback Marcus Morgan said following the season-opening game Aug. 28. “Our last year of playing ball together could be taken away just like that… We’re just going out with that mindset. Playing hard, practicing hard every day because we all know it could be our last.”

Morgan and dozens of other high school athletes throughout the district gathered outside the district’s offices during the board meeting, which was held over Zoom. The message was simple: they want to play.

Even after the board’s decision, these athletes are still speaking out.

City High quarterback Raphael Hamilton, along with many of his teammates, tweeted out a video Thursday in which Little Hawk players urged Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to permit schools to compete athletically while their schools are in an online-only learning model.

“We will be responsible citizens,” one City High player said in the video.

“We can virtually learn but not virtually play,” another player said.

“We are not responsible for the spike in cases,” a third player said.

RELATED: Iowa City West dominates Liberty in season opener with no fans in the stands

A petition to allow the continuation of district sports while participating in an online-only learning model has also surfaced and has been shared by Morgan and other athletes throughout the district.

“Extracurricular activities are an incredibly important social, mental and physical outlet for our students,” part of the petition reads. “Continuation of these outlets is critical — particularly during these times where social isolation is already too prevalent. Our students have worked hard, been patient and have done everything asked of them. They have been champions about it — they want to play.”

The district was granted permission from the state Aug. 27 to begin the school year fully online as COVID-19 cases surged in Johnson County. The same day, the district announced that it was prohibiting spectators at its athletic events until further notice.

City High and Liberty High hosted football games Aug. 28 with no fans in attendance.

Additional rulings will be made by the district following the first two weeks of the academic year to determine how the learning model will look moving forward.

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