116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
COGGON — To maintain the athletic excellence North Linn athletics has shown over the past several years, replacements for talented performers had to be found.
For the 2022 Lynx football team, ranked No. 4 in The Gazette’s Class A preseason poll, that is a must.
Coach Jared Collum's team is coming off a stellar 9-1 campaign that ended with a heartbreaking, 7-6, loss to Wapsie Valley in the second round of the Class A playoffs.
Several key cogs from that team, including Gazette Male Athlete of the Year Austin Hilmer, have graduated. Collum, starting his 15th season at North Linn, is confident his returning group has the ability to defend its District 4 title.
“Our kids love to compete and it goes through every sport,” Collum said. “We lost a fantastic senior class, but we have a nice size junior class ready to step up as seniors.”
That group is led by Tate Haughenbury. The 6-foot-6 quarterback/safety was the architect of the Lynx's playoff run last season. He completed 137 of 220 passes for 1,914 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also added 227 yards on the ground and seven TDs.
Collum said it is comforting having a returning quarterback with Haughenbury's skills.
“Tate's experience will definitely be a big advantage for us this year,” Collum said. “He has a really nice grasp of the offense and we really hit the road running this year in terms of our passing game.”
The veteran Lynx coach added that Haughenbury continued to refine his game in the offseason.
“Tate put a lot of work in over the summer working on his mechanics and it has really shown,” Collum said. “He's throwing a great ball so far.”
Two of Haugehbury's top targets from 2021, Hilmer and Lance Miller, who combined for 75 catches and almost 1,200 yards, are gone. Cael Bridgewater was the team's second-leading receiver with 31 catches for 403 yards and six scores. The 5-9 senior also was a standout on defense with 45 tackles from his strong safety position.
Bridgewater will no doubt play a bigger role for the Lynx in 2022.
“Cael was a big part of our offense last year,” Collum said. “We'll continue to use his quickness and speed, trying to get him in open space.”
Senior Ben Wheatley, junior Jake Van Etten and sophomore Mason Bechen also will be counted on in the receiving corps.
The running game will need a new leader as well. Cade Haughenbury rushed for 1,122 yards and 11 TDs in 2021 and has graduated. Landen Helmrich, who was a second-team all-state defensive lineman last year, also will be tasked with picking up some of the load in the offensive backfield.
Collum said there will likely be some adjustments on offense.
“We have a few wrinkles added to our offense,” he said. “We will continue to be a multi-formation spread team and will run some I-formation as well.”
As good as North Linn was on offense last year, the defense was just as impressive. The Lynx outscored their opponents, 349-43, including six shutouts.
A number of players from that group return.
“We return both of our defensive tackles (Helmrich and Mclane Rauch) as well as two linebackers in Jarin Peyton and Landon Miller,” Collum said. “We also have two defensive ends that played quite a bit last year in Corbin Woods and Lane Sommerfelt.”
Helmrich had 60 tackles, including 18 for loss. Miller had 54 stops from his linebacker position while Peyton had 47.
“We will need to replace both corners and a safety,” Collum said. “Tate Haughenbury will start at free safety and we get Bridgewater back at strong safety. The front-runners at corner right now are Van Etten and Ben Wheatley.”
The Lynx open the season at home against rival Alburnett, then host East Buchanan in Week 2.
“Class A District 4 will be tough as usual,” Collum said. “East Buchanan and North Linn seem to be the front-runners. That game in Week 2 will be a doozy.”