116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Opposing offenses had to account for Derek Weisskopf.
Williamsburg’s 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker altered plenty of game plans with his versatility and athleticism. A role he gladly embraced.
“Being able to disrupt the game is huge,” Weisskopf said. “I love to do it. It’s a great feeling. I was able to do that a lot this year.
“The linebackers and defensive line played great this year, which helped me out so I could drop back and make some plays and interceptions in the backfield.”
Weisskopf demonstrated his impact in the Raiders’ 18-13 Week 3 win over 1A state champion Van Meter, snapping the Bulldogs’ 61-game regular-season win streak that began in 2015. Weisskopf had a hand in two of Williamsburg’s five turnovers, picking off a pass and forcing a fumble that led to Carson Huedepohl’s 3-yard game-winning touchdown run.
“We were down late,” Weisskopff said. “I punched the ball out. We got the recovery and scored the next play to win the game.”
Weisskopf tied for the Class 2A lead with six interceptions and today is named The Gazette’s defensive player of the year. Iowa City Liberty quarterback Graham Beckman’s breakout season garners Gazette offensive player of the year honors.
Weisskopf finished with 59.5 tackles, 43 solo, 4.5 tackles for loss and returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
“He can play any place on the field and you have to account for him,” Williamsburg Coach Curt Ritchie said. “He can be productive at all three levels. On the line of scrimmage, linebacker, or in the secondary. You better know where he is.”
The bigger the game, the better he usually played.
“Those early-season games versus great competition, he rose up and lives for those moments,” Ritchie said. “Playoffs, you are going to get his best. Like most players at the end of a long season, he was banged up in the championship game. He never once let anyone know. He just gave what he could.”
The Raiders (12-1) fielded one of the top defenses, reaching the state finals. Williamsburg surrendered just 8.6 points per game with three shutouts. The Raiders held foes to one score or less in nine of 13 games, leading 2A in interceptions (21) and fumble recoveries (19).
Williamsburg defensive lineman Owen Douglas joined Weisskopf on the all-area team.
“We had an incredible year,” Weisskopff said. “(Assistant) Coach (Grant) Eck (Eckenrod) had us ready to go every practice and the best way possible to play every game.
“Everybody on the field believed and we all played with all our hearts. It was a great year on defense.”
Beckman was second in 4A in most passing categories. He emerged as one of the area’s best, completing 165 of 261 passes for 2,580 yards and 31 TDs. He added 320 rushing yards and four scores, leading the Lightning to the state quarterfinals.
“QB is the most important position in sports,” Liberty Coach James Harris said. “Graham stepped into his first year being a varsity starter with tremendous poise. He had a lot talented weapons around him (Garrett and Trey Gregoire, Lucas Meyers, Christian Barney, Trey Williams) but it was his ownership of the offense that helped move us to a new level.
“He is a strong-armed passer that is also good runner. He's our version of Josh Allen. Coach (Scott) Chandler, (Liberty offensive coordinator) loves Josh Allen.”
Beckman passed for more than 300 yards in three games with a high of 328 against Linn-Mar. He threw for multiple TDs in all but two games with six against Mount Pleasant and four against Clinton and Fort Madison.
Beckman etched his name in the Liberty record book, owning single season and career records in passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and attempts. Garrett Gregoire was his top target, catching 43 passes for 832 yards and nine TDs, claiming a spot on the all-area team as a receiver.
“What’s so impressive about Graham to me is that the moment was never too big for him,” Harris said. “He was always poised and focused on the task at hand. That's who he is as a person, he is always seeking feedback on how to improve. He is critical of himself and wants to be great.
The Lightning didn’t have to wait long for Beckman to strike. He made an impact in the season opener against ranked Iowa City High at Kinnick Stadium. Beckman passed for 234 yards and three TDs, rushing for another score in a 36-19 victory.
Harris praised Beckman for his performance on the field and off, owning a 4.0 grade-point average and volunteering with the North Liberty food pantry. Beckman is driven to be his best.
“The Kinnick game (against City High) was a put everyone on notice game, I was again impressed with his poise and maturity as he led us on scoring drives in his first possession as starter, which then led to a tremendous team win,” Harris said. “I can't say enough good things about this young man. He is a tremendous leader, he has the work ethic second to none. He is a leader in the weight room, on the field, on the basketball court, in the classroom (and) in the community.”
Class 4A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier led the area with seven all-area selections, including running back Michael Cunningham, linebacker Thomas Sundell and defensive back Aidan McDermott.
Mount Vernon, the state runner-up in 3A, placed four players on the 40-player list. City High had three honored, including Player of the Year Ben Kueter, quarterback Drew Larson and receiver Akili Mattox.
2022 Gazette All-Area Football Team
Player of the Year: Ben Kueter, sr., Iowa City High
Coach of the Year: Lance Pedersen, Mount Vernon
Offensive Player of the Year: Graham Beckman, jr., Iowa City Liberty
Defensive Player of the Year: Derek Weisskopf, jr., Williamsburg
QB Graham Beckman, 6-2, 200, jr., Iowa City Liberty
QB Drew Larson, 6-1, 175, jr., Iowa City High
QB Joey Rhomberg, 6-2, 185, jr., Mount Vernon
RB Michael Cunningham, 6-2, 192, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
RB Carter Henderson, 6-0, 200, sr., Linn-Mar
RB Andy Henson, 6-2, 215, sr., West Branch
RB Makelle Taylor, 6-0, 200, sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
WR Garrett Gregoire, 5-8, 160, sr., Iowa City Liberty
WR Christian Janis, 6-4, 180, sr., Iowa City West
WR Akili Mattox, 6-2, 200, sr., Iowa City High
WR Tate Petersen, 6-1, 170, sr., Monticello
OL Cody Fox, 6-4, 260, jr., East Buchanan
OL Korver Hupke, 6-2, 245, sr., Independence
OL Luke Reth, 6-5, 259, sr., West Delaware
OL Ben Volk, 6-1, 230, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
OL Clark Younggreen, 6-0, 230, sr., Mount Vernon
UT Jacob Maurer, 6-0, 175, sr., BGM
UT Tate Haughenbury, 6-5, 190, sr., North Linn
UT Preston Ries, 6-2, 210, jr., Monticello
PK Kale Christensen, 6-1, 185, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
DL Owen Douglas, 5-11, 190, sr., Williamsburg
DL Caelum Jones, 6-4, 212, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
DL Andrew Meyers, 6-0, 220, sr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy
DL Brad Vislisel, 6-2, 220, sr., Mount Vernon
DL Logan Wright, 6-2, 230, jr., West Branch
LB Jackson Jaspers, 5-8, 155, jr., Mount Vernon
LB Ben Kueter, 6-2, 225, sr., Iowa City High
LB Chase Mahoney, 6-2, 205, sr., Cedar Rapids Washington
LB Kade McElwaine, 6-0, 185, jr., MFL MarMac
LB Thomas Sundell, 6-0, 190, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
LB Brett White, 6-0, 210, jr., Solon
DB Watts McBride, 6-0, 185, sr., Cedar Rapids Washington
DB Aidan McDermott, 6-2, 192, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
DB Alex Mota, 6-1, 175, sr., Marion
DB Blake Timmons, 5-10, 190, sr., Solon
DB Derek Weisskopf, 6-3, 210, jr., Williamsburg
UT Mitchell Johnson, 5-10, 180, sr., Independence
UT Michael Mulherin, 6-2, 205, sr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy
UT Jevin Rexroth, 6-0, 175, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier
P Reece Hoffman, 6-0, 175, sr., Clear Creek Amana