Small College Sports

Coe football hungry for rebound season

Kohawks return 14 total starters, picked sixth by conference coaches

Coe football players gather around head coach Tyler Staker for a group photo during football media day in Eby Fieldhouse in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Coe football players gather around head coach Tyler Staker for a group photo during football media day in Eby Fieldhouse in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Last season’s finish was hard to swallow for Coe Coach Tyler Staker and his players.

The Kohawks dropped the final five games of the 2017 campaign, leaving them with a bitter taste in their mouths. They are ready to feast and cleanse their palates.

“We’re hungry,” Staker said. “I think that’s one of the big things for us this year.

“Last year left a bad taste in our mouth the way things finished up. Our guys are working really hard for fall camp and we’re eager to get going.”

Coe returns six starters on both sides of the ball and will attempt to improve on last year’s 4-6 finish, including a 2-6 conference mark. The Kohawks were sixth in the preseason poll voted on by American Rivers Conference (formerly known as the Iowa Conference) coaches. Coe opens the season against Augustana (Ill.) on Sept. 1 at Clark Field.

“We didn’t end the season too well,” Coe junior running back Tyler Dralle. “It’s definitely motivation being ranked sixth in the conference. We’re looking to come out to prove them all wrong.”

The Kohawks underwent a little bit of a change in the offseason. Staker hired former Buena Vista assistant Brody Rohach as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Cody Baethke is the new defensive coordinator.

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Rohach and Staker will collaborate, working with an offense that returns 2,134-yard passer Quentin White, who threw for 17 touchdowns a year ago, and an offensive line that only returns first-team all-conference blocker Dalton Kuehl, losing three all-conference performers to graduation.

“This is a brand-new season, brand-new opportunity,” Staker said. “We have brand-new faces on the offensive (and) defensive sides. New coaches on both side of the ball. We’re just eager and excited to get going and prove ourselves.

“We will be pretty similar to what we have been in the past. We’ll be up-tempo, no huddle. We’ll use our guys in space and will continue to do what we’ve done for a number of years offensively.”

“Coach Rohach knows his stuff really well,” Dralle added. “It’s a lot of the same stuff we did in the past. We have a couple new formations, a couple new plays that he put in and will work really well for us. I’m excited and we have a good offensive good coordinator. A really good one.”

Dralle is the team’s top returning rusher with 452 yards on 109 carries before injury sidelined him the final four games. He expected to be the battering ram between the tackles again for Coe. Clevon Catchings, who saw limited action last season, will be an option as well.

Mitch Stopko is the top returning receiver with 338 yards and three TDs in 29 receptions, but he will serve a new role. The former Clear Creek Amana ball carrier will move from the slot to running back, turning a temporary move in the spring into a permanent one.

“In the fall, they ended up changing positions for me and moved me over there,” Stopko said. “I played it in high school so it feels kind of like home for me. I like it.”

Stopko averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his final two seasons with the Clippers. More importantly, Stopko is a complementary back to Dralle’s punishing style, providing a big-play threat and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

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“We’ve moved some guys around,” Staker said. “I’m excited about that, seeing some guys in new positions, and we return some key players.”

Kuehl will be a four-year starter up front for the Kohawks. The former Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep has asserted himself as a leader on the offensive line, trying to help bring along the inexperienced group, needing to improve the 4.1 yards per rush and 5.5 yards per play average last season.

“We have a whole new offensive line now,” Kuehl said. “I’m just bringing them up, trying to talk and coach them up if they mess up on a play, telling them what they need to fix.”

Defensively, Coe was in the middle of the conference pack, allowing more than 424 yards per game. The Kohawks graduated last year’s conference sack leader Robbie Peters and versatile Drew Heitland.

Staker said this year’s defense has the potential to be better, despite the big shoes to fill. The Kohawks will rely on the leadership of Terrence Hall at linebacker and Daniel Vega at defensive line.

“Losing guys like Drew and Robbie is big, not only because of their size, but because of their leadership,” Hall said. “Those are both things that it takes guys to step up to regain those capabilities in our defense. I think we totally have that.”

Hall’s 9 1/2 tackles for loss is the most from a year ago, while his 77 total tackles is second to junior Jacob Elsbury’s 87. Logan Rickard, Kentrell Smith and Brian Robertson give them a strong nucleus on defense that includes a more seasoned secondary.

“Our practices in camp so far has been really exciting,” Vega said. “Everybody is flying around.

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“I think we have a really fast team, right now. Our secondary is a lot more experienced this year.”

Coe, at a glance

Coach: Tyler Staker (3rd season, 15-7)

Last year: 4-6 (2-6 in Iowa Conference, now American Rivers Conference)

Top returners: RB Tyler Dralle, QB Quentin White, RB Mitch Stopko, OL Dalton Kuehl, WR Colton White, DB Jacob Elsbury, LB Terrence Hall, DL Daniel Vega, LB Logan Rickard, DB Kentrell Smith, DB Brian Robertson

Key losses: DL Robbie Peters, DL Drew Heitland, RB Tino Green, WR Demetrius Harper, LB Dalton Shadle, OL Jacob Langenberg, OL Zak Ranshaw, OL B.J. Weepie

Schedule

Sept. 1 — Augustana (Ill.), 1 p.m.

Sept. 8 — at Cornell, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — Dubuque, 1 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Buena Vista, 1 p.m.

Sept. 29 — Nebraska Wesleyan, 1 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Simpson, 1 p.m.

Oct. 13 — Wartburg, 1 p.m.

Oct. 27 — at Central, 1 p.m.

Nov. 3 — Loras, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 — at Luther, noon

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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