Four weeks have resembled a lifetime.
It is the first football season since the North Fayette and Valley Community merged to form North Fayette Valley, but they Tigerhawks have played like they are longtime teammates.
Class 1A 10th-ranked North Fayette Valley improved to 4-0, dropping No. 8 Saint Ansgar, 21-3, in a District 4 game Friday night at West Union. The programs have rebounded together after a combined 8-11 record last year.
The team has gelled, according to head coach Bob Lape.
“We had hoped everything would go smooth,” Lape said. “It’s a tough transition for everybody. The kids are resilient.”
Players built camaraderie on their own. Once they knew of the union in the spring, they began supporting each other in different sports. The players really got to know each other during summer lifting and speed training. The players eliminated doubts they would be united.
“It’s exciting times at North Fayette Valley,” Lape said. “We have eight communities coming together. Everybody brings something to the table. it is unique.”
One of the hardest tasks has been trying to get playing time for well more than 30 players. Big victories have helped and a good rotation on special teams has gotten people on the field.
“We’re trying to play as many kids as possible,” Lape said. “We’ve been able to play a lot of kids.”
The Tigerhawks, a combination of the two schools’ old monikers, have formed a stout defense. More than 20 defenders have at least one tackle.
They have yet to yield a touchdown, giving up two field goals this season. Saint Ansgar had 1st-and-goal from the Tigerhawks 1, but settled for three points when facing a 4th-and-goal from the 4.
“That’s just desire,” Lape said. “They’re feeding off each other on defense.”
North Fayette Valley’s ground game has thrived. A strong line and talented runners in Josh Mackey and Derrick Kuehner lead the attack. Both have amassed more than 100 yards apiece in each game. Mackey has 698 yards and seven TDs. Kuehner has added 478 and 6 scores.
Mackey had 176 rushing yards and Kuehner ran for 123 against Saint Ansgar.
“We’ve been able to run the ball pretty efficiently,” Lape said. “Ultimately, we’re going to have two 1,000-yard rushers – one at fullback and one at tailback.”
The mindset is to take one game at a time and improve one thing each day. The have goals to win a district title and aspirations of a deep playoff run that ends in the UNI-Dome. The current conversation doesn’t include them.
“We talk about our day-to-day activities and the task at hand,” Lape said. “We’re just focusing on winning right now. Potentially, we can go as far as we want, if we continue to work, believe and trust in each other, and play as a team.”
Top-ranked Waukon routed Central Springs, 54-0, at Manly to remain unbeaten. The win marked the Indians third shutout in four games. Waukon hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in its first 16 quarters.
“Things have gotten out of hand early in three of the four games (and) we know it’s going to get tougher,” Waukon Coach Chad Beermann said. “Where we’re sitting at right now against the competition we’ve faced, the kids have performed well.”
The Indians have outscored their opponents, 185-6. The lone touchdown came when Waterloo Columbus returned a punt on the final play of the game. In addition to a stifling defense, the Indians have been able to score at will. Beermann said running back Marcus Weymiller and quarterback Parker Hesse have scored once about every three touches. Jacob Ronan powered Waukon with three touchdowns, including two punt returns for scores, and two interceptions.
Glyeb Ewing, who has signed to play at Oregon State, leads the team with 32 tackles, including 12 solo. The strength can be either side of the ball weekly.
“It’s a combination of both,” said Beerman, noting the Indians have the top-scoring offense and defense in Class 2A. “We have some really good athletes and they play both sides of the ball.”
Monticello managed just five total takeaways in its first three games. The Panthers produced more turnovers in 22-18 win against Mount Vernon.
Peyton Paddock returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to give Monticello a lead for good about midway through the final quarter. It was one of four interceptions in the game. The Panthers entered the game with just one interception.
The defense did a lot of the damage in the second half. The Panthers had five turnovers after the halftime, improving to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in Class 2A District 4.
This and that
*-Waterloo West upset Class 4A seventh-ranked Cedar Falls, 17-16, Friday night. The Wahawks drove 74 yards and scored on Alex Young’s 2-yard run with 44 seconds remaining. They took the lead when Young ran a quarterback keeper to converted the 2-point attempt. Cedar Falls drove down the field, but West’s Mitchell Paeper intercepted a tipped pass to secure the Wahawks first win in about 16 years over the Tigers. (Waterl0o Courier’s Jim Nelson contributed to this report)