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DUBUQUE — In the pantheon of great running backs at Coe College, you’ve got Fred Jackson, Carey Bender and then everyone else.
Maybe, just maybe, you should put Trevor Heitland’s name up there now. At least consider him above “everyone else.”
He’s got to be at the top of the list of Kohawks who were wide receivers turned running back for their final season.
The senior from Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s astonishing workload and production helped his team post a huge 23-12, come-from-behind win Saturday afternoon over Dubuque at Chalmers Field. Heitland set a school record with 51 carries, dipping, darting and just plain toughing his way to 216 yards as the Kohawks took a gigantic step toward an Iowa Conference championship and NCAA Division III playoff berth.
Coe (7-0, 5-0) somehow plowed its way through a three-game gauntlet of Wartburg, Central and the 16th-ranked Spartans (6-1, 4-1). Its remaining games are at Luther, at home against Simpson and at Buena Vista.
“These guys don’t quit,” said Tyler Staker, still unbeaten as a head coach. “They are mentally tough. One of the themes we’ve had all season long is ‘family.’ Playing for one another. These guys have totally embraced that. When the game’s on the line, you see our team come together. Today was no different.”
“From the beginning of the year, we’ve just said we need to take it one game at a time,” Heitland said. “That’s kind of been our philosophy the whole year. But those were three big games in a row. Back-to-back-to-back like that is tough. I’m just proud of the guys and how we fought through each game.”
This was the third consecutive game of 200-plus yards rushing for Heitland, who went over the 1,100-yard mark for the season. Coe was determined to play power football and stuck with that gameplan, even though it didn’t produce much in the first half.
Heitland got 151 of his yards the final two quarters, setting up a pair of TDs, neither of them his, ironically. Quarterback Gavin Glenn hit Colton Martin on a 5-yard drag route to put Coe ahead early in the fourth quarter, 14-12, then the Kohawks went on a pounding seven-minute drive that culminated with a Glenn 1-yard touchdown sneak.
Brandon Abbas kicked an 18-yard field goal with just over two minutes left to cement things.
“Crazy,” Coe lineman Zak Ranshaw said, when informed of Heitland’s carries number. “But that’s what we knew we were going to do. We repped it about 75 times every day in practice. Every single front that they would line up in, every place their linebackers would be. Just repitition after repitition. That’s what Coach just drilled into our heads, and it worked. It took us a little bit to get going, but in the second half, we came out with our hair on fire, and that’s all we needed.”
One side of Heitland’s helmet was completely bare after the game, the Coe logo and gold paint peeled off, a sign of the work he did.
“Coming into the game, we knew we needed to run the ball and be efficient running the ball,” he said. “Fifty-one carries is a lot, though. The adrenaline is going right now, but I’m sure I’ll be sore in the morning.”
“That’s Kohawk football right there,” Staker said. “You’ve got a guy like Trevor Heitland, the way he’s performing, he’s just having a fantastic season. We have a good offensive line, we knew that going into the season. So for us to impose our will on teams, that’s what we do.”
Dubuque took a 12-0 lead on touchdown passes from Conor Feckley in the first and second quarters. Coe made it a 12-7 game at halftime with a late second-quarter drive that was capped by Glenn’s 10-yard TD pass to Demetrius Harper.
The Kohawks owned the second half, holding UD to 27 yards and racking up an immense time of possession advantage of 22:58 to 7:02. Stopping a fake-punt run for minus-five yards gave Coe the ball at the Spartans 35 late in the third and set up the go-ahead TD early in the fourth.
The IIAC’s leading passer, Feckley was just 2 of 12 throwing in the second half for 21 yards. He was 16 of 36 for 161 yards overall and was intercepted late by Coe’s Dylan Stepleton.
“Our defense just played lights out,” Staker said. “(Defensive coordinator) Larry Atwater had an excellent game plan, and they executed it to perfection.”
“We really focused on making them one dimensional,” said Coe defensive end Drew Heitland, who finished with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. “We know we have a pretty good D-line, and we wanted to stop their run game. Our front seven is pretty solid. Just make them one dimensional, make them throw the ball. They’re very good at it, but we just wanted to get pressure on their quarterback.”
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