116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s not like they’re winning a ton at the middle-school level.
Waukon High School football coach Chad Beermann figures his feeder team is at about a break-even rate that way, which is normal. And he’s OK with that.
“We just want kids playing as much as possible and keeping them interested,” Beermann said. “Then by the time they get into high school, we can kind of shape where they end up and go from there.”
It’s been quite a run for this Northeast Iowa high school program.
Waukon and North Fayette Valley play in a Class 2A state playoff quarterfinal Friday night at Waukon. If the Indians win, that’ll be five consecutive trips to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls for the semifinals.
Waukon won it all last season for the second time in four years, doubling up Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, 28-14, in the 2A title game. Only three starters returned this season, and Waukon was smoked by Waverly-Shell Rock (which is unbeaten and in the 4A quarterfinals) in its opener, 45-6.
But it beat Decorah (another 4A quarterfinalist) in its second game, running the table from there to this point.
“It’s kind of a blur,” Beermann said. “Gee, we won it last year, and here we are in the quarterfinals now with a chance to go to the semifinals for the fifth straight year. You just tell kids that it’s not a birthright. You don’t just get to go to the Dome every year. We told the seniors this year that the last time we lost a district game, they were in middle school. It’s been a good run.
“We tell the sophomores and juniors, there are no guarantees you will make the playoffs next year. Everything starts over.”
Waukon’s last district loss came to Cascade in 2017. Its closest district game this season was a 26-14 win over Jesup.
Again, just Pat Hennessy, Lincoln Snitker and Braden Hemann returned as starters, and Hemann has been out for most of the season with an injury. Hennessy and Snitker, meanwhile, have been tremendous.
They are 1-2 on the team in tackles as linebackers. Hennessy has rushed for 1,639 yards and 24 touchdowns, Snitker for 700 yards and nine TDs. Snitker has 30 receptions and seven more scores.
And he was an offensive lineman in middle school, going back to Beermann’s point about just getting kids playing and figuring out their positions once they get to high school.
“You’ve got a couple of ponies, you’ve got to ride them,” the coach said. “And those two are both three-year starters. Pat didn’t carry the ball a lot last year because we had Ethan O’Neill. He just kind of spelled him. This year, he probably didn’t have more than mid-teens in carries in any one game through the first half of the season. Lincoln kind of shared that. Then we had a couple of injuries, we needed Lincoln to block a little bit more, so his carries went down, yet he’s still catching a lot of balls.
“His ball skills are great for someone who didn’t learn how to catch the ball until he was a freshman. Pat is very patient as a runner. As an offensive line, we pull a lot, so he gets in behind those pullers and then reads blocks and cuts off that … You’ve got to get that from those kids if you’re going to have any success.”
Beermann noted the growth of junior Noah Hatlan at quarterback. Needless to say, the all-new offensive line has come together.
This whole team has come together. Beermann is a North Fayette grad who was head coach for 17 years at Valley (Elgin) before it combined with NF to create North Fayette Valley.
He didn’t get the NFV coaching job, but he’s found a football home at Waukon; after nine years, he’s improved his career record to 168-98. Waukon beat North Fayette Valley in the regular season, 48-21, and has beaten the TigerHawks five straight games.
“It’s a pretty good rivalry, obviously going back to the fact that I coached at Valley and played at North,” Beermann said. “Our offensive line coach coached at North. We’ve known those guys for years. The stakes are obviously pretty high, just personally as much anything. Yeah, it’s a playoff game, but it’s two teams, two coaching staffs that really like to beat each other. That kind of brings it up a notch, too.”
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