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Tough stretch tests Coe

Kohawks face Central in challenging three-week span

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe football players have thrived with a case of myopia.

Sure, they can see the figures in the distance, but their focus has been on what is directly in front of them. The trait has served them so far this season, especially as the Kohawks navigate a treacherous span of their Iowa Conference schedule.

For the second straight week, Coe faces a perennial conference power, hosting Central Saturday at Clark Field beginning at 1 p.m.

The Kohawks (5-0, 3-0) won a 37-34 thriller against Wartburg last week at home and head to 18th-ranked Dubuque next week. Coe’s eyes have been set solely on the Dutch (4-1, 2-1).

“We have a tough stretch, no doubt about it,” first-year Coe head coach Tyler Staker said. “We’ve had the mindset of going 1-0 each week and our guys have really been doing just that. We haven’t looked ahead that much to the next week’s opponent.”

According to Staker, the Kohawks will see a lot of the same characteristics from Central that they saw from Wartburg. He said both are great programs with great tradition and strong coaches. Coe will embrace another challenge and do it with the same chip that has been firmly fixed to their shoulder pads all season.

“A big part of that is how we’ve performed the last two years,” Staker said. “It wasn’t really up to our standards. That’s something these guys have really taken to heart and used that as a motivator through the course of this year.”

Coe has jumped to a great start this season, averaging an IIAC-best 45.6 points per game. Coe’s rush offense is second in the conference, tallying 260.2 yards per game, but now it faces a stiff test with the conference's top rush defense. The Dutch allow just 109.2 yards a game and less than three yards per carry.

“They are definitely one of the better defenses we’ve seen this year,” said Coe running back Trevor Heitland, who rushed for a career-high 204 yards against Wartburg and earned IIAC Offensive Player of the Week honors. “Going in I think we have a pretty good game plan for them. As long as we all follow our assignments ... we should have a pretty good day.”

The run game has been the cornerstone of the Coe offense this season, even though quarterback Gavin Glenn is second in the IIAC with 1,291 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. Heitland has scorched opponents to a league-leading 144.2 yards per game and compiled almost 200 yards more than the next IIAC back.

Not only will Coe look to move the chains with the rush, but set up the pass attack with the ground game.

“We’re going to do what we’ve done the last five weeks and that’s rush the football, being able to move it on the ground,” Staker said. “That opens up for big-play potential in the pass game.

“They are very good up front. Their front seven is very tough.”

The Kohawks’ versatility on offense will force the stingy Central defense to play straight up. Coe has Heitland and Brandon Roseberry in the backfield and deep options in Demetrius Harper and Seth Williams.

“I think we have really good balance,” said Heitland, who has 306 receiving yards. “We have a couple good running backs, good outside receivers, Gavin is a pretty mobile quarterback who can hit those receivers and our offensive line has blocked well this year.

“Our defense has been playing well, putting us in really good position and make it easy for us to score.”

Coe’s defense will have its hands full with the Dutch offense. Central uses multiple quarterbacks, including Riley Gray, who has thrown for 1,075 yards and 11 TDs. Wide receiver Sam Markham has caused fits for opponents, averaging 113.8 yards on a little more than nine catches per game for the Dutch. Six have gone for scores, including a 47-yarder.

“They’re led by two really good quarterbacks,” Staker said. “Both do a fantastic job running their offense.

“Some of the things we’re most concerned about is stopping the run and stopping Sam Markham, who is a really good player.”

Heitland said the Kohawks have been dialed in this week, devoting time to film study, working hard in practice and trusting in the coaches. They have to convert that into execution on the field.

If the Kohawks do that and go 1-0 for the sixth straight week, then they can turn set their sights on the Spartans.

“This is a good stretch of the season,” Heitland said. “We know we have a few tough teams coming up. We’re not looking past Central. We’re taking one game at a time. It is how we’ve gone through the whole season and I think that helps us focus.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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