Dyersville Beckman relies on Mitch Steger to do a lot of things.
He makes catches, runs the ball and throws passes, but the Blazers have eased his punting duties in recent weeks.
Beckman tallied 168 points without a punt the last three weeks, trouncing Northeast, 84-20, Friday night at Dyersville. The Blazers (6-2, 5-1) face ninth-ranked Cascade (7-1, 6-0) in the regular-season finale at home with the Class 2A District 4 title on the line.
A title opportunity seemed unlikely when the Blazers sat at 1-2, but five straight wins have given them a chance.
“I don’t know if I would thought it at the beginning of the year, but that’s the way you want it, right?” Beckman Coach Gregg Hammann said. “You want it to come down to the wire and have that last (regular-season) game mean something, and I’m sure Cascade is excited. I know we are so it should be a real good ball game.”
The Blazers have hit their stride offensively, outscoring their opponents by 204 points and asking Steger to punt only twice during the winning stretch.
“The offense has been doing a great job,” Hammann said. “They’ve been clicking real well.
“I’m real proud of the way our kids are playing.”
Hammann said the success starts up front with the offensive line, praising offensive tackle Logan Pasker for continuing a block 40 yards downfield on one play Friday night. Quarterback Grant Hammann, son of the Beckman head coach, provides a threat passing and running the ball. Hammann surpassed 100 yards on the ground and scored five touchdowns against Northeast, including a 90-yard kickoff return.
Steger has more than 800 yards of offense. Running back Tyler Hirsch is second on the team in rushing with a little more than 500 have nearly 100 yards Friday night. The players amassed more than 420 yards rushing and 500 total yards.
“We just have some explosive guys,” Gregg Hammann said. “They are an all-around real good group of boys.”
They are resilient as well. Gregg Hammann said 11 starters missed the district opener – a 29-20 loss at Mount Vernon – and some have yet to return. The Blazers have rebounded, receiving a strong contribution from players assuming their roles. The team has a strong sense of unity.
“We still have four or five starters out, but the guys who are playing have really stepped up and decided they were going to make a difference and they’ve really come on strong here since then,” Gregg Hammann said. “Our young men play real hard and play very well together. I think that’s the part that impresses me the most.”
Cascade also impresses Gregg Hammann. The Cougars have a spread offense led by the district’s top passer, Derek Lieurance, and receiver, Nate Bergfeld. Lieurance had 1,530 yards before Week 8, including 808 to Bergfeld. The Beckman head coach was already watching film Friday night.
“They have a good team and play good football,” he said. “We’ll have to be ready to go after them.”
Dillon Letts loose
North Linn’s Dillon Letts ran wild in a 59-13 win over East Buchanan on Friday night. Letts compiled 473 all-purpose yards, scoring seven total touchdowns. Letts rushed for 405 yards, scoring four touchdowns on 15 carries before halftime. He opened the second half with a 68-yard kickoff return for a score.
In one game, he more than doubled his previous production, increasing his season total to 765 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Letts has had at least 100 rushing yards in the last three games, going for 100 against Starmont in Week 7 after 198 against third-ranked Wapsie Valley.
“He just ran hard,” North Linn Coach Jared Collum said. “He hit holes quick. He had a great night.”
It was the first win of the season for the Lynx. Letts performance highlighted a strong team effort.
“I was proud of the kids. It’s been a rough year,” Collum said. “Letts had a great night, but it took 10 other guys. Defensively, I thought we played real well, too.”
A year makes a big difference, especially for Iowa City High and Cedar Rapids Washington.
Last season, neither score had a winning record, losing six games apiece, and now are atop of their respective MVC divisions.
City High has clinched an MVC Mississippi Division title with a 5-0 mark, heading into a Week 9 game against Cedar Rapids Kennedy. The Little Hawks are 7-1 overall, beating Linn-Mar, 42-28, Friday.
The Warriors need a win against Dubuque Wahlert (2-6) in the final regular season game to earn the MVC Valley crown, owning a head-to-head tiebreaker with a 26-10 win over highly ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier.
Washington improved to 4-1 in the Valley and 5-3 overall, claiming a fifth straight win with a 21-14 victory in the final 10 seconds against Cedar Rapids Prairie on Friday.
In addition to Beckman and Cascade, a few other teams will have district crowns at stake in Week 9.
Top-ranked Waukon (8-0, 5-0) will travel to No. 8 New Hampton (8-0, 5-0) for the Class 2A District 3 championship. Both teams have clinched playoff berths and a home game to start the postseason.
BGM and Pekin are unbeaten in Class A District 6 and play at Pekin. The Bears, who reached the state title game last season, are 8-0 overall, while Pekin is 7-1.
Lisbon (6-2, 6-0) hosts Lone Tree (6-2, 5-1) for the Class A District 5 crown. Lisbon has not lost to a Class A foe this season.