INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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CEDAR FALLS — Doug and Michelle Applegate got creative when they named their three children.
Their son, Hezekiah, is a freshman defensive end for the Northern Iowa Panthers. It’s a biblical name from the old testament.
Willow Applegate is one of Hezekiah’s sisters. The other is Tennessee.
Yes, like the state.
“My parents just liked that name,” Hezekiah said. “Don’t know the full story, but they said they loved the name, and they wanted to keep it.”
Hezekiah Applegate appears to be a keeper for UNI, which plays Saturday night at Eastern Washington (6 p.m. kick from EWU’s red Roos Field). The Panthers are ranked 10th, Eastern Washington eighth.
Applegate goes into the game tied with all-American Karter Schult for the team lead in tackles with 14 apiece. They have created havoc on opposing offenses, combining for 12 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Schult was a given coming into this season, but Northern Iowa needed someone to step up at the other end position. Applegate has done that.
“Karter will take some guys. They tend to slide Karter, they tend to double Karter, they’ll tend to chip Karter,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “But that allows someone else to be free with a one-on-one (situation). Hezekiah has done a good job of playing relentless. Most of his plays are because of his tenacity, as much as his talent. That’s what Hezekiah is, one of those guys made like we are. He’s going to play hard every down for you. It won’t be flashy, but it will be effective when you look at his body of work.”
“I’ve been seeing this since spring ball,” Schult said. “I knew H was going to be a good player. It was just going to take his opportunity to shine.”
Applegate said having Schult around has been huge, and not only because he allows Applegate to work one-on-one against a lineman, as Farley pointed out.
“I definitely want to be like Karter,” Applegate said. “He’s a role model of mine, I want to be as good as him. I want to be someone who takes pride in being a D-lineman. He has such a hard-work ethic, I definitely want to be like him on the other side. It’s a challenge, but I’m striving to be just as good as him when I’m a senior like him.”
Applegate played defensive end for Johnston High School in suburban Des Moines and was an all-stater as a senior. He was one of those under-recruited guys that UNI thrives on.
He’s not as tall as Schult (6-foot-2 to 6-4) but weighs more (285 to 269). His red-shirt year allowed him to learn, put on roughly 40 pounds and get ready to play college football.
He credited UNI defensive line coach Bryce Paup for getting him ready to play.
“It’s definitely been the coaching,” he said. “Coach Paup is a great coach, and he definitely has prepared me. Then our strength coach, Coach Jed (Smith), he helped prepare me strength and conditioning wise for the past two years. He got me to be college ready. Then my teammates gave me some tips here and there, whenever they saw some things I could improve on. Especially Karter Schult. He’s a great leader and takes pride in being a D-lineman and passing on his wisdom to the underclassmen.”
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