116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – Fun, fast and physical.
Coe football is subscribing to the three-word mantra for this season. Play that way and the results will take care of themselves.
“This game is meant to be fun,” Coe Coach Tyler Staker said during the program’s annual media day Monday at Clark Field. “You have to play fast, if you’re going to have success, so having a sense of urgency in everything you do. Football is a collision sport. You have to play with a sense of physicality week in and week out. That is our theme.”
The Kohawks welcome that style of play and are excited for the opportunity to apply it to competition this fall. Coe was selected fourth in a preseason poll of American River Conference coaches after a 6-4 season in 2019 and playing just one game in a disrupted spring schedule.
“I think this team is really talented,” senior defensive lineman Cedric Nah said. “We have a lot of leadership (and) people coming back. We have like eight or nine fifth-year (players), so a lot of experience.”
Staker said they have had just one scrimmage and one game in the last 600 days before opening at Cornell College on Sept. 4.
“Our guys are really excited to get back on the field to compete,” Staker said. “Our coaches are excited to have a normal 10-game regular season.
“We’re thankful for that and an opportunity to get back at it.”
Multiple players perked up at the mention of this fall’s theme. They enjoy that brand of football. It is at the heart of why they all suit up in the first place.
“It’s got a nice ring to it,” Coe linebacker Manny Lopez said. “You want to be physical when you’re out here. Every aspect of the game needs to be fun. That’s why we’re out here every single time, whether it’s a game, practice or walk-through. We’re here to have fun.”
Staker said the attitude is applied across the board – the experienced front seven in defense, skill offensive players and special teams. Fly around the field, make hits and enjoy every minute. It makes a good formula for victory.
“We need all three of those things to win,” Maske said. “Every team needs that to succeed.
“We have a lot potential. Everyone is excited to go. Fun, fast and physical will win a lot of games.”
The strength begins in the defensive front. The defensive line has the most experience, including all-conference senior Cam Elam and fifth-year standout Cedric Nah. They made not be as big as most opponents but they will devise a scheme to use their athleticism to wreak havoc.
“Those guys are probably a little undersized when it comes to height and weight in comparison to some of the offensive lines we will go up against,” Staker said. “They are extremely fast, extremely physical, they play to the echo of the whistle. They fly around and we move them quite a bit on defense.”
They also help a strong unit of linebackers led by Lopez, the middle linebacker. He said the defensive line makes plays and frees him up to make tackles.
“They make my job easy as a linebacker,” Lopez said. “They open up a lot of holes for me.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun playing with them.”
Offensively, pieces are starting to fall into place. Sophomore Carter Maske sits atop the depth chart, battling Nick Casey and Matt Walton. He has made gains since playing against Dubuque in the spring.
“Carter did a good job for us in the spring,” Staker said. “He continues to do well in camp. He has the nod right now, but I feel we have three really good quarterbacks that can all come in and run our offense and lead us to victory. There’s good competition between those three.”
Any of the quarterbacks will have some weapons at receiver, including captain Dominic Shepardson. He had more than 160 yards against the Spartans and played well in Saturday’s scrimmage with St. Ambrose. He is expected to be a regular playmaker among a group with Amel Saric, Josh Bishop, Tre Walker and Logan Winn.
“He is a high-energy guy,” Staker said of Shepardson. “We’re going to use him in a lot of different ways to get him the ball with bubble screens, stretching the defense vertically (or) getting him in the backfield and hand it off to him. Good things happen when the ball is in his hands.”
Shepardson said he will do anything the team needs to make play. He has always embraced the versatility coaches have asked from him.
“Ever since my freshmen year, coach has talked to me about being like a Swiss army knife,” Shepardson said. “I just tried to be ready. I remember one coach asked where I wanted to play and I said wherever you want to put me.
“Anywhere this offense needs me I will play. I can’t wait to fulfill that role.”
The running game struggled in the spring. They were unable to produce explosive plays, forcing the pass game to carry the load. The Kohawks have focused on improvement with the offensive line and ball carriers. Some spent the summer at Coe, working together. The have dissected film and have become better through the offseason work.
“We just need to be tough and physical,” Center Rush Vance said. “The trenches are a war. If you’re soft in the trenches, you’re not going to do very well.
“It’s a fun group, so once it’s fun everything goes smooth and it’s a lot easier to perform.”