CEDAR FALLS – Don Bosco’s championship football season or its successful turnaround may never have happened.
Well, it may not have occurred with Jake Hogan leading the way.
The insistence of a new head coach persuaded Hogan to continue playing football his freshman year. The result was the Dons’ first state football title and a senior season at quarterback that ended with 4,183 total yards of offense, including 2,577 rushing, 71 total touchdowns. For his performance, Hogan was named KCRG-TV9/The Gazette Player of the Year.
Hogan is happy with his choice to play football instead of focusing more on wrestling and baseball.
“I don’t have a clue where I’d be without playing football,” Hogan said. “I’m pretty happy I did that. I thank Coach (Colby) Yoder for that, saving me a little bit there.”
Yoder was considering the opportunity to take over the program, but wasn’t sold unless he knew Hogan and some of his classmates would suit up for him.
“There is some truth to that,” Yoder said. “Jake wasn’t coming out, but that was a stipulation that if I was going to come to Bosco that Jake would play football. There were a few other kids, too. I got them out.
“I coached these guys in sixth grade. I knew they had a lot of potential for all of them growing up and being a decent class for football.”
It couldn’t have turned out any better for Yoder, Hogan and the Dons, who posted a 26-1 mark the last two seasons with consecutive trips to the 8-man championship game. After a runner-up finish last year, Hogan said the Dons were focused on pulling away from the opposition.
“We weren’t going to settle for anything besides first,” Hogan said. “We took that attitude through the whole season and we tried to dominate every game.”
Hogan’s impact came in his final quarter. He rushed for two touchdowns, crossing the goal line on a 1-yard run for the decisive score with 1:13 remaining in an 18-14 win over Exira-EHK. It completed a double-digit comeback, trailing 14-0 at halftime.
“Jake has a will to win,” Yoder said. “You can’t coach it. Some kids got it and some don’t.”
His instincts as a leader kicked in during halftime. Both Yoder and Hogan said he is more of a leader by example. He rallied his teammates.
“I looked at a couple of guys and they had their heads down a little,” Hogan said. “I said we can do this. I didn’t doubt for a second that we could win. We stuck to what we normally do. We just had to man-up and do it better.”
Hogan led the Dons with 111 rushing yards and 172 passing in the championship game. It was indicative of his entire career, tallying more than 9,600 yards the last three seasons. He was the Dons’ leading passer and rusher since his sophomore year, compiling 3,727 total last year and 1,700 in 2011.
He also led the team in scoring the last two seasons, scoring 325 points this year. He had 206 as a junior. Interestingly, he started as a wide receiver as a freshman. He played quarterback for a junior varsity game that year and Yoder was ready for a switch. Hogan resisted at first but changed for the team.
“We saw some things when we put him at quarterback,” Yoder said. “He could run and pass. It’s a pretty good weapon when you can do a lot of things both running and passing as a dual threat.
“He’s a tough guy to prepare for. I will tell you that much.”
He was contributed as a defensive back and returner. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, averaging 32.2 yards per return. He also led the Dons with interceptions as a sophomore. Hogan admits he likes to run the ball more than anything.
“I ran at least double the amount of times I threw,” Hogan said. “I just feel like I can make the plays when I run it. It’s a little more in my control.”
Hogan is an accomplished wrestler as well. He has qualified for the Class 1A state tournament each year, placing third as a sophomore and eighth last year. Hogan has more than 110 career wins. Wrestling helps with success in football.
“Wrestling, I’d say, is the toughest sport. You have to be mentally tough and disciplined,” Hogan said. “It just transfers over to the field and never giving up.”
The Dons have been used to comebacks, rising from the lower ranks. Don Bosco started its program in 2004 and took its lumps to get to this point. The ascension began somewhat during the 2011 season. During Hogan’s first full varsity season at quarterback, the Dons won the season-opening game against Belle Plaine in overtime. They had a winning record, matching the win total from the previous season.
“I’m not going to say it felt better than the state championship or anything but winning that game and starting 1-0 was pretty special,” Hogan said. “I feel like it turned the program around a little.”
Yoder said Hogan had a strong cast of players around him. Hogan earned their respect and made others better. He will be missed and his shoes won’t be filled easily on and off the field.
“He’s just a great kid,” Yoder said. “He has been a fun kid to be around here.”