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 RAPIDS — For the previous eight seasons, Coe Coach Tyler Staker called plays as the offensive coordinator.
With his move to head coach, Myers Hendrickson, a Western Illinois alum, joined the staff in Staker’s old post. The offense hasn’t skipped a beat.
Coe has gained almost 1,100 yards in its first two games and takes a 2-0 record into the Iowa Conference opener Saturday at Clark Field. The Kohawks host Loras (0-2) at 1 p.m.
“Myers Hendrickson is doing a fantastic job calling plays, really putting us in great situations,” Staker said after Coe’s 63-6 romp over Cornell. “I feel like the start of our offense is clicking a little bit sooner than maybe it did last year.”
The transition has been smooth for those stepping into the lineup.
“We didn’t change our strategy a whole lot,” Coe quarterback Gavin Glenn said. “Coach (Hendrickson) built some things on our core offense, which I think has elevated us.”
Coe has rushed for 511 yards through the first two weeks and has allowed just three sacks in about 60 pass attempts. Four returners started at least five games on an offensive line that was a little green last year.
Center B.J. Weepie, guards Zack Ranshaw and Zach Smith and tackle Dalton Kuehl, a former Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep lead the way. Tackle Jacob Langenberg started the final game last season and rounds out the offensive front.
“The majority of these guys played last year,” Staker said. “It was their first start, their first season playing, so now they have a year under their belt. You’ve seen that growth and development from our offensive linemen.”
Glenn has grown as well. He has started strong, throwing for 527 yards, including a career-high 308 yards and three touchdowns in the first game against Wisconsin-River Falls. Glenn has taken snaps under center the past two seasons, but already has more yards and TDs as all of last season. He has almost surpassed his career numbers just two games in to being a full-time starter.
“Gavin has been a guy who has been in our program for three years,” Staker said. “He has a great knowledge of our offense and what we’re trying to do.”
Glenn has placed less pressure on himself. He said he tried to do a little too much during his time on the field last season.
“The last couple years, going into the game, I always felt I had to make that big play or try to make something happen,” Glenn said. “This year, I’m more comfortable, knowing that I have to make the simple plays and simple passes. So far, it’s working out pretty well.”
Of course, it helps to have weapons like former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep Trevor Heitland and former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Demetrius Harper (6-137). Heitland has 10 catches for 170 yards and two TDs, while rushing for 188 and three, leading the team in both totals.
The Kohawks have missed a clutch performer recently. Heitland seems able to fill that void this season.
“He is someone you can count on to make a big play in a big moment,” Glenn said of Heitland. “When you have a playmaker like that, you have to give him the ball and he can make things happen.”
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