IOWA CITY — All eyes are on Iowa City Regina. Again.
The Regals are on the greatest championship run in the history of Iowa high school football. Marv Cook’s program has an 82-2 record the last six seasons and will go for a seventh straight title this fall.
The target couldn’t be any bigger on the Class 1A preseason No. 1 Regals, who will break in new starters at nearly every offensive skill position.
“Even though Regina has had success and won some titles, for a lot of these guys it will be their first chance to be a starter and win a state championship,” Cook said. “That’s a lot more rewarding and memorable than being a backup or being a freshman on the sideline.”
If you ask Cook, 50, what keeps him motivated at Regina when he’s already reached the tiptop of the highest peak in his sport, his answer is simple: the kids.
Cook talks about the impact his players have made volunteering in the community. He’s genuinely proud to play a role in helping shape their development — on and off the field.
Cook’s quest for another state championship has implications outside of Iowa, too.
A run of seven straight football state titles has only happened 11 times in the U.S. over the last 100 years. The Regals still have a way to go for the national record for consecutive championships (14).
“It’s never easy,” Cook said. “It’s a process. The thing that is nice about it is you understand the routine and you understand the length of a season better.”
Regina will have its hands full to keep the streak going.
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Quarterback Nathan Stenger (2,643 total yards, 38 TDs), running backs Nick Phillips (829 yards, 11 TDs) and Justin Hunter (719 yards, 10 TDs) and receiver Ethan Suchomel (502 yards, 4 TDs) are all gone.
All together, the Regals lost 85 percent of their rushing yards, 73 percent of their passing yards and 60 percent of their receiving yards from the 2015 team. Departures accounted for 90 percent of Regina’s touchdowns.
Senior Thomas Rapp and junior Michael Conlon are competing to be the starting quarterback.
Rapp completed 26 of 52 passes for 393 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions as Stenger’s backup last season. Rapp was fourth on the team with 259 receiving yards.
Conlon completed 8 of 19 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Cook said it’s a possibility both will see action under center. The other will be lined up at receiver.
“Both those guys need to be playing for us in some capacity,” Cook said. “We’ll let it play itself out over the next (week).”
Regina’s championship teams have been known for their offense and scoring. Cook is confident that can continue this fall. The players just haven’t had the opportunities yet.
Still, Cook expects this year’s team to rely more on stout offensive and defensive lines. It’s what Regina football has really been built on, he says.
Senior Jared Brinkman, who has committed to play at Northern Iowa, is a third-year starter. The 260-pound all-state center will anchor the offense and can play anywhere on the defensive line, likely at tackle.
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“If you have a really solid offensive line and you have a good defensive line, you have a good team in high school football,” Cook said. “We’re going to rely on those guys. We’re going to lean on them and we’re going to count on them to lead our team.”
IOWA CITY REGINA AT A GLANCE
• Coach: Marv Cook (10th year, 114-7)
• Last year: 13-1 (Class 1A state champions)
• Top returning letterwinners: OL/DL Jared Brinkman, QB/WR Thomas Rapp, QB/WR Michael Conlon, WR Jack Jensen, RB/LB Isaac Vollstedt, RB Jake Phillips, RB Mason Simpson
• Key losses: QB Nathan Stenger, WR Nick Phillips, LB/RB Justin Hunter, K Emilio Tovar, RB/DB Ethan Suchomel, OL/DL Jack Donovan, OL/DL Cam Lynch
• Key to making the playoffs: The Regals are replacing more skill players than they have had to in a while, but both lines — anchored by all-state standout Brinkman — should be excellent.
• Games to watch: The Regals open the season with two big games: Cedar Rapids Xavier (who handed Regina its only loss last season) and rival Solon.