Dyersville Beckman started the season with a chip on the shoulder and talent on the field.
The Blazers finished the regular season with a second consecutive district title.
Eighth-ranked Beckman (8-1) opens the Class 2A playoffs Wednesday against Osage (5-4) at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, beginning at approximately 8:45 p.m.
The Blazers reached the 2A state semifinals last year, but lost 18 starters to graduation, causing many to doubt their ability this season. They took it to heart and responded.
“At the beginning of the season, I think all the newspapers had us picked fourth in the district and not even ranked in the state, coming off last year’s state semifinal run,” Beckman Coach Gregg Hammann said. “People didn’t think we were going to have much of a team this year and I think underrated us a little bit. I think for our kids it gave them something to prove.”
The record is proof Beckman has a legit shot for another extended postseason. The Blazers swept 2A district 4 competition, including 10th-ranked Center Point-Urbana. Beckman hasn’t lost to a 2A team this season, dropping the season opener, 7-6, to 3A playoff qualifier Western Dubuque.
“They are very determined young men,” Hammann said. “They’ve worked their tails off all year. I’m just really proud of their performance.”
The offense had ts work cut out, replacing one of 2A’s top passing attacks that compiled almost 2,400 yards last year and more than 4,300 total yards. The skill players were overhauled with the graduation of quarterback Connor Golden, running back Derek Hammann and receivers Ty Troutman and Robbie Anstoetter.
Although the game plan has been altered, the Blazers are still effective. Before Week 9, Quarterback Grant Hammann had thrown for 993 yards and eight touchdowns, rushing for 243 yards and three more scores. Running back Ian Ross led Beckman with 540 rushing yards. Versatile Mitch Steger had 976 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns, including 666 receiving yards and four TD catches.
Kirby Kendrick had 304 yards and three scores at fullback before Friday’s 35-6 win over Cascade, helping give Beckman a balanced offense.
“We have enough weapons, whatever the defense gives us we can pick something up,” Hammann said. “When teams play pass against us, we can run. When teams play run against us, we can pass.”
The Blazers defense has been solid, containing the opposition most of the season. Kendrick, a two-time all-state linebacker, has led the way.
“He really anchors the defense for us,” Hammann said.
Athleticism and strong chemistry have been key components to success. They may not have the number of dynamic players as last year, but they can contend with the ones they have replaced.
“I think they’re just as good, if not better,” Hammann said. “They’re a very different team than last year.”
The goal is to play in the UNI-Dome after three more wins. Hammann is confident the Blazers have the potential to match or surpass the 2011 finish.
“We’ve got a few guys that have a taste in their mouth from last year that sure would like to get back there,” Hammann said. “These kids work hard everyday, and we’re going to take it one game at a time, but I certainly believe they have the capability.”
Cedar Rapids Prairie and Dubuque Senior produced two of the more notable improved seasons in the entire state. One is assured to continue at the expense of the other.
After combining for three wins and finished sixth in their respective Mississippi Valley Conference division last year, Senior (7-2) hosts Prairie (6-3) Wednesday in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Hawks closed the regular season with a third-straight win, handling Waterloo West, 31-7, while the Rams blanked Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 42-0, Friday night.
“I don’t know much about their program or coaching staff,” Prairie Coach Mike Morrissey said. “The things I hear about them are very good. They’re a disciplined team and they do things the right way.”
Each team has more wins this season than the five total wins both programs have combined for the last two seasons.
Prairie is making its 15th postseason appearance, and first since 2009. Senior earned just its second playoff berth and first since going 1-1 in 1997.
Morrissey said Senior is big and physical on both sides of the ball. The Rams have things moving in the right direction, and both programs have found a formula for success.
“They’ve done a nice job and had a really good year,” said Morrissey, in his second year as Hawks head coach. “The more you watch them the better they get.”
Prairie won the last meeting between the two teams, 45-7, on Sept. 4, 2009.
Davis has surgery
Marion standout Andrew Davis underwent surgery Saturday morning to repair a broken tibia and fibula suffered in the fourth quarter of the Indians’ 17-16 loss at DeWitt Central Friday.
The procedure was expected to include two rods and was not as bad as similar injuries in the past.
“They said they’re going to estimate it will take 10 weeks for healing,” Marion Coach Tony Perkins said. “He should make a full recovery.”
Davis rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns, adding 12 yards receiving, before getting injured on defense, during a field-goal attempt.
After the kick, Davis remained on the turf. Trainers tended to the senior, carting him off the field on a stretcher.
Perkins identified it immediately, because of previous experiences. Davis finished the season with 346 rushing yards on 44 carries with seven touchdowns, adding 125 yards receiving on five catches and two TD.
“When I got to Andrew, I’ve seen it before and I knew exactly what it was when I got to him,” said Perkins, adding, “I’ve gone through it three other times and Andrew wasn’t upset (about the injury). He was just mad he wasn’t going to be with his teammates anymore.”
Seventh-ranked Marion (7-2) will open the Class 3A playoffs Wednesday against Western Dubuque (4-5) at Thomas Park.
Twenty-three teams from all classes will begin the postseason Wednesday without a loss. At the most, six have a chance to maintain their unblemished marks.
Eight-man football has a state-high seven teams that posted unbeaten regular seasons. Classes 4A, 2A and 1A have four undefeated teams so far. Two teams each in Class 3A and Class A are 9-0.
Mississippi Valley Conference’s Cedar Rapids Xavier and Iowa City West were perfect in 4A competition, as was Pleasant Valley in the Eastern part of the state.
In Class 3A, top-ranked Decorah hasn’t lost since the 3A state title game last season. Grinnell remains perfect in 3A.
Mediapolis is the only team in 2A’s Eastern bracket with a 9-0 record.
The 2011 and 2010 2A state champion Iowa City Regina Regals have changed classes but not their winning ways. Top-ranked Regina is 9-0, extending its winning streak to 37 straight games. Dike-New Hartford joins Regina as the only current unbeaten team on this side of the state in 1A.
Wapsie Valley is 9-0 in Class A, hosting Iowa Valley (6-3) in the opening round Wednesday.
In its first year playing eight-man football, HLV has won its first eight games, and plays Lenox (7-3). Don Bosco, which started its football program in 2004, finds itself 8-0 also. Murray, which is in the same bracket as HLV is 9-0