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Decorah maintains traditional approach under new coach

Longtime assistant Pat Trewin takes the reins; Vikings have shot for first district title since 2013

Decorah's Drake Shelton (2) carries the ball during the first quarter of their high school football game at Saints Field at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Decorah's Drake Shelton (2) carries the ball during the first quarter of their high school football game at Saints Field at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DECORAH — For about a half-century, the reins of Decorah football had been in the hands of Dick Wuest and Bill Post.

Wuest took over in the 1960s and led the Vikings to four state titles, including three straight from 1987-89. Post began as an assistant in 1973, a year before Decorah’s first crown. He was co-head coach with Dennis Olejniczak from 1994-99, guiding the program to state finals in 1997, 2004, 2008 and 2011 and winning the 2012 Class 3A championship.

In his first season as head coach, Pat Trewin has maintained the tradition and winning formula.

“We still want to be the same run downhill, block and tackle physical football team,” said Trewin, a longtime Decorah assistant. “We’re a little old school. In Class 3A football, we might be dinosaurs, but we aren’t extinct yet, I guess.

“It’s still a fun brand of football and our kids around here buy into it. They still have a whole lot of pride wearing Decorah horns and playing Decorah football. That is physical, fast football and playing with some passion.”

The Vikings (6-2, 4-0) have won five straight games and could capture the 3A District 3 crown and secure a playoff berth with a home victory Friday night against Independence in the regular-season finale. Decorah’s last district title was in 2013.

This season has come with some minor tweaks and stamps from the new regime, but the tenets of Decorah football remain.

“In my experience, there aren’t many differences,” Decorah senior quarterback Jace Johnson said. “We do things the same. Nothing has changed much. It’s the same tradition and culture we know.”

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Drake Shelton, who leads the Vikings with 921 rushing yards and nine touchdowns and is fourth with 31 total tackles, echoed Johnson’s words.

“Coach has done a good job,” Shelton said. “He changed little things but most is the same.”

Post retired after more than 40 years in the program and compiled a 188-71 career mark. Trewin was his assistant for more than two decades, serving as defensive coordinator for most of that time.

Trewin was no stranger to Decorah football, playing at North Fayette and earning all-conference honors for Luther in 1991. He spent four years coaching at Valley Community and Bondurant before joining Post’s staff. Trewin had a strong respect for the program before contributing to it.

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“They established a great tradition in that I benefit from that,” said Trewin, named 2013 3A Assistant Coach of the Year by the Iowa Football Coaches Association. “It’s a program and it teaches skills. The tradition makes kids understand. They want to go out.”

Trewin praised his assistants, noting that they have either been around three decades, been former players or have head coaching experience.

“We have a lot of knowledge in this,” Trewin said. “Part of the year has been trying to find our role in a little bit different way.

“We’ve tried to adapt some things on the offensive side that I’ve seen or liked. Just add a few wrinkles to what we do.”

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Decorah has amassed 2,331 total yards of offense and 23 TDs, including 1,784 and 17 on the ground. The Vikings defense, led by Clay Johnson’s 41.5 tackles and Carston Baumler’s nine solo tackles for loss, has been stingy in all but one district game.

The Vikings survived a 1-2 start and rediscovered their identity with a Week 4 win over Crestwood. They also opened with a win against defending 2A state champion Waukon, but it was consecutive losses to top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier and Western Dubuque sandwiched in the middle of non-district competition that forced some adjustments and growth.

“We started a little rough,” Jace Johnson said. “I feel those two losses helped us come together. We started playing as a team. We have been getting better. Every game, every week.”

Trewin challenged some of his players and they responded against Crestwood and then passed an early district test with a 30-14 victory at Waverly-Shell Rock.

“I think from those first four games we were able to learn a lot about what you need to do to play really good football,” Trewin said. “From there on, we did. We executed and played well. We played pretty physical and fast most of the time and that’s one of the things we want to keep doing.”

The Vikings' next task is trying to corral the Mustangs, who are coming off a loss to the Go-Hawks last week. Independence (6-2, 3-1) can force a three-way tie atop the district with a victory and Waverly-Shell Rock win over Charles City. The Mustangs can snatch the title from Decorah with a win and help from the Comets.

Trewin is impressed by Independence dual-threat quarterback Logan Schmitt, who has thrown for 1,340 yards and rushed for 895. Trewin said the Vikings must stop the big play in order to win.

A victory would allow the Vikings to add to the program's storied legacy. Even with a new head coach leading the way.

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“It will mean a lot,” Shelton said. “Decorah has a great tradition. … Coaches have a saying to ride the wave. We rode the wave a lot this year. We rode it constantly. Here we are.”

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

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