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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MOUNT VERNON — The opening play foreshadowed the rest of the night.
When Cornell’s kickoff to start the game landed out of bounds for a penalty and good field position for Coe, it started a lopsided first half that saw the Kohawks do little wrong and the Rams do even less right.
The Kohawks scored seven touchdowns before the break and rolled to a 63-6 victory over the Rams Saturday night at Ash Park. Coe earned its 17th straight victory in the series and 71st overall in 126 games of a rivalry that started in 1891.
“We prepared all week,” Coe quarterback Gavin Glenn said. “We stuck to our game plan and executed.”
The Kohawks controlled the game on both sides of the ball, amassing 633 total yards of offense and holding the Rams to 180 and one score.
“Gavin Glenn had a fantastic game,” Coe Coach Tyler Staker said. “Two games in a row he has had great command of our offense. He put us in great situations.
“Our defense came up big. Dylan Stepleton did a tremendous job. He had that pick-6 and then back-to-back interceptions. I was really happy with how we played on the offensive and defensive side.”
Coe (2-0) wasted little time after starting that first drive on the 35. The Kohawks needed just six plays and 1:53 to go 65 yards. Trevor Heitland capped the drive with a 29-yard touchdown run, breaking it up the middle, making a defender miss and running untouched to the end zone for a 7-0 edge.
Less than three minutes later Coe doubled its lead, capitalizing on a failed Cornell fake punt from its 16 that gave the Kohawks the ball at the Rams 30.
Glenn connected with a wide open Colton Martin for a 27-yard scoring strike just two plays later. Kohawk receivers routinely found open space down the center of the field. Glenn hit Mitch Stopko for a 23-yard touchdown to make it 28-0. Seth Williams hauled in an 18-yard TD pass with 37 seconds left before the half for a 49-0 lead.
Glenn picked apart the Rams defense, throwing for 219 yards and three touchdowns in two quarters of work.
“It all started with the line, giving me plenty of time back there,” Glenn said. “The receivers made the plays. It’s pretty easy when you have a lot of time back there to throw to wide open guys.”
Glenn also added a 20-yard rushing touchdown, juking a defender and diving through a goal-line tackle to put Coe up, 42-0.
Heitland led Coe with 108 rushing yards. He added 35 receiving yards on three catches. Heitland is a dangerous weapon for the Coe offense, but he wasn’t needed after halftime. Fellow Cedar Rapids Kennedy alum and backup running back Tyler Dralle added 78 rushing yards.
“He is like lightning in a bottle,” Staker said of Heitland. “Anytime he touches the ball he has an opportunity to hit a home run.”
The Kohawks clicked as the momentum mounted. They are more experienced this year, especially up front, and are more sure of themselves.
“When we’re confident we play well,” Glenn said. “In year’s past, we haven’t been able to do that, so we’re starting to roll.”
The Kohawks racked up 421 yards of offense in the first half. Coe had more offensive plays (51) than Cornell had offensive yards (43) in the first half. In addition to stifling the Rams offense, the Kohawk defense contributed points.
Stepleton intercepted a short Daniel Brown pass that was off the mark and returned it 38 yards for a score.
“It was a swing pass and he overthrew it,” said Stepleton, who picked off another pass on the first play of Cornell’s ensuing possession. “It was good to be there.”
As he was trucking down the sideline, Stepleton had one thought in his mind.
“Don’t let anyone catch me,” Stepleton said. “Just don’t let anyone catch me.”
The Kohawks had their share of mistakes, but even that turned out fine. They had three touchdowns negated due to penalties. Two came on the same drive that eventually ended in a Brandon Roseberry 3-yard TD run and 35-0 advantage.
Starters became spectators in the second half, giving way to reserves. Cleavon Catchings toted the ball 10 times for 42 yards. His 2-yard TD run in the third put Coe over 50 points for the third straight time against Cornell.
Cornell (1-1) finally got on the board in the second half. The Rams drove 67 yards on six plays on its first possession of the third. Gabriel Noyce ran 13 yards for a touchdown, but the extra-point attempt was unsuccessful, making it 49-6.
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