Football Rebuild: A Young Team Works Back Toward Winning


Natalie Green

City High football players gather around one of their coaches to hear about plays.

Aala Basheir and Wolfgang Fullenkamp

The 2019 football season marks a decade since the City High varsity football’s team last state title run. This year, as in previous years, the team hopes to break that streak.

“Football’s always tough; practices are never that much fun. You have a little flare-ups every now and then. But overall, it’s been [a] very good, even great atmosphere this summer,” Coach Dan Sabers said about the new varsity team.

Sabers has been coaching City High football for the past 18 years. Aside from coaching football, he teaches Health and a strength and conditioning class at City High. 

“I love the discipline of the game. I love the physicality of the gamewith control, I don’t want people getting hurt,” Sabers said. “It’s just such a physically and mentally challenging game. I think it’s the greatest team sport there is.” 

This year’s team captains are Tonka Hickman ‘20,  Kolbe Schnoebelen ‘20, and Raph Hamilton ‘21. 

“You’ve got to have a bunch of people pulling together and working together to be successful,” Sabers said. “It’s a tough, demanding game.”

Hickman has been playing football since seventh grade. Now he is both running back and linebacker for the varsity team, as well as team captain.

“There’s a lot more stuff on your shoulders to take care of: you have to get everyone in check. You have to make sure everyone’s straight,” Hickman said. “You can’t get mad, because if you get mad, people are looking up to you.”

This year the varsity team is made up of 21 upperclassmen and other eight sophomores. These lower numbers are a result of the district temporarily cutting seventh-grade football in 2014-2015. The City High and West High football teams are all experiencing lower numbers of juniors and seniors than previous years.

“Upperclassmen are definitely embracing the sophomores that are coming up,” John Klosterman ‘22 said.        

Along with Klosterman, Gable Mitchell ‘22, Jamari Newson ‘22, and Darren Richardson ‘22 are some of the sophomores playing on the varsity team. 

“[It’s a] really awesome experience. Not very many kids get to [play varsity as a sophomore],” Mitchell said. “It’s a pretty big deal, for me at least, and I’m excited.” 

Along with the excitement from the players, Coach Sabers is looking forward to the upcoming season. 

“They’re…allowing me to coach them. I let them know that I love them because they are a good group to work with and things like that,” Sabers said about the new sophomores.

The transition can be challenging or stressful for some people, but just as rewarding. 

“You just get to bond with your team,” Richardson said. ”People say it’s higher stakes, but I just see it as soon as a football game against better competition: you get better.” 

Last year the football team ended up with a 2-7 season after winning two of the first four games, then dropping the last five. City struggled defensively, allowing over 37 points per game, although the offense showed some promise for this season, averaging 19 points per game.

“We had some guys admit they didn’t play nearly as well as they could have, and that’s where it starts. When something negative happens in our lives, sometimes you want to blame other people, [but these players didn’t do that].” Sabers said.

In the first three games, City lost against Liberty 23-20 and against Cedar Falls 52-7. However, the team managed to get the Little Cy-Hawk trophy with a victory of 28-25 against Ames.

“Winning games as a team…that’s the best possible thing you can have. Personal success is just another thing on the side,” Mitchell said.