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Soko So Good: Coe’s Alphonoso Soko rushes for 284 yards in 28-21 victory over Hope
Soko, Kohawks defense leads the way; Maske and Saric connect for 2 scores
CEDAR RAPIDS — The simple message was effective.
Coe running back Alphonso Soko requested the offensive line give him some space and he would do the rest. The guys in the trenches provided it and Soko produced a huge day.
“It was my O-line,” Soko said. “They’re big boys. I told them if they gave me a good 2-yard push that I’ll make something happen. They did that.”
Soko rushed for 284 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, and helped melt the last 2:35 off the clock to seal Coe’s 28-21 victory over Hope (Mich.) College on Saturday at Clark Field. Soko has 369 total rushing yards in the Kohawks’ 2-0 start.
“I feel good,” Soko said. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in me. When the team has confidence in you, it makes you want to ball out for them and that’s what I did today.”
Soko’s status was in question during the week. He battled a nagging rib injury, which didn’t seem to slow him down against a team that only allowed 19 rushing yards last week.
“He played a hell of a ball game,” Coe Coach Tyler Staker said. “I wasn’t quite sure if he was going to be able to go or how many reps he was going to be able to get. He showed his toughness today.”
Soko, an all-stater at Muscatine and former University of Northern Iowa player, put Coe on the board in the first quarter. On third-and-3 from the 27, Soko broke a couple tackles and then bolted up the middle to open space for a 73-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
“My coach kept telling me backdoor cut, backdoor cut and that is what I saw,” Soko said. “As soon as I saw my center push I just hit the hole and it was right there.
“Like I said, it was my O-Line. Those boys did a good job all game.”
Soko didn’t find the end zone again, but he was able to break long runs to set up other scores. His 29-yard gain ignited an 80-yard drive that was capped by the first of two 16-yard TD passes from quarterback Carter Maske to Amel Saric. The score made it 14-14 at halftime.
A 26-yard run from Soko preceded the second Maske-to-Saric TD pass for a 28-14 lead with 3:40 left in the third. Maske passed for 174 yards, completing 18 of 31 passes. Saric had 10 receptions and 64 yards, while Dominic Shepardson had 65 yards on eight catches.
Coe received the ball with 2:35 left, clinging to a seven-point lead. Soko pounded the ball for four straight gains, including a 25-yarder that melted the clock and burned Hope’s timeouts, and allowed Coe to kneel it for the win.
Teammates believing in him provided some crunch-time motivation to grind for gains.
“It makes me want to work hard,” Soko said. “Get those tough yards for them.”
The defense played a key role as well and even contributed points on the scoreboard. After scoring on two straight possessions, the Flying Dutch got greedy late in the first half.
Coe’s Anthony Bullard made them pay with his first interception return for a touchdown. The Kohawk picked up on tendencies and coaches made a coverage change from the sideline.
“We ran it and it just worked out perfectly,” Bullard said. “I was in the perfect spot because of the perfect call.”
Bullard saw limited action as a prep at Solon. The senior defensive back returned for another year and it paid dividends.
“I looked inside, saw the ball was in the air and from there I really don’t remember anything, Bullard said. ”I just remember standing in the end zone.
“It was a pretty cool experience. I’m glad I was able to come back and be out there for the team.”
The Kohawks managed two big fourth-down stops in the second half. They also forced two turnovers and held Hope (1-1) to just 87 yards rushing after rushing for 354 in its opener.
“That was the key to the ball game,” Staker said. “They threw it 48 times, which I don’t think they were wanting to do or planning to do. We intercepted them twice.
“Our defense really stepped up. They stopped what is a really good run offense and a run team. They played lights out,”