Prep Football

Good News Bears: A winner grows in Brooklyn

BGM's football team is 6-0 and pushing forward

BROOKLYN — Hugging and picture-taking and smiling were plentiful behind an end zone at BGM High School’s football field Friday night.

Teammates on BGM’s football squad slapped hands. Their family members and friends shared in the joy. The Bears had just defeated Belle Plaine, 28-20, in a game in which two teams played hard.

It’s now 6-0 BGM, a team full of spirit and desire. You should have heard freshman offensive lineman Brice Taylor roaring “Let’s go, Bears!” on the sideline in the final seconds of the first half, which ended in a 14-14 tie.

You should have seen the intense look of satisfaction and the tears of joy in the eyes of senior Dylan Staker, who played so hard all game. He deflected a pass that was intercepted by teammate Noah Beck shortly after BGM had scored early in the fourth quarter to take its first lead of the game.

You should heard the postgame address of pride given to the Bears by Jerod Burns.

“We did a phenomenal job of bouncing back,” Burns told the players, “being resilient when bad things happened.

“That is a really good (Belle Plaine) football team, a really good scheme. It’s a lot easier said than done, stopping that offense.

“I’m super proud of you guys. Played with a lot of heart tonight. You had your backs against the wall all fricking night. All night.”

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Burns seems to have the enthusiasm of a first-year head coach instead of someone who’s had the job since 2005. That was the season after BGM suspended varsity football for a year because it had just 21 players out for football and only three were seniors and juniors, so it played only junior varsity games.

Friday nights in 2004 were dark at BGM. Did that really happen here? It seems impossible now given the Bears have been to the playoffs nine times under Burns. Nine straight times, from 2008 to 2016.

But last season, when BGM went 4-5, is a lot of the fuel driving this year’s squad.

“We had our first losing season since 2007,” Burns said. “It was not a lot of fun.

“So we went to work in the offseason. We’ve got some young kids who really wanted to make a change with the way our program went last year and took some ownership of it. We’re a long ways from home, but we’ve definitely gone in the right direction.”

A Bear who looks like a cub until you see him play is junior Noah Beck. He is 5-foot-8 and, according to the rosters distributed to fans here, 150 pounds.

“Maybe,” Burns said. “Soaking wet, probably.”

Here’s what Beck did: He scored all four BGM touchdowns. He rushed 27 times for 214 yards. He completed two passes and caught one. He returned a kickoff. He made seven solo tackles. And he had that vital interception.

“I want to win really bad,” Beck said. “I know how much this means to my team and I just want to make them happy.

“Last year against this team, we got destroyed, 42-13. It was 357 days since that game. We wanted to pound on these guys.”

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Well, there was no pounding. Belle Plaine scored first in both halves. It still had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime until Jordan Kriegel’s interception with 1:12 left secured the result for the Bears. Plainsmen junior running back Trevin Straight, 5-9 and 160, almost neutralized Beck’s performance with a great one of his own.

“He’s a stud,” Burns said admiringly. “Trevin Straight, he’s an animal.”

And Beck was, well, a Bear.

Leading 21-20, BGM had a third-and-6 at midfield with about 3:30 left. Beck then forged a first-down run out of something that hadn’t looked promising, getting 10 yards out of second-efffort, then third-effort, then fourth.

“I love that kid,” teammate Scott Tibbetts said on the sideline after the run. Tibbetts is a run-pass threat used at quarterback in most passing situations. Jake Tibbetts, Scott’s brother, played on the 2013 BGM team that reached the state’s Class A championship game.

Their sister is Mollie Tibbetts, whose body was found in a Poweshiek County field on Aug. 21. A man from that county has been charged with the 20-year-old woman’s murder.

Light blue ribbons have been attached to flagpoles and sign poles and light poles throughout Brooklyn. Teal hearts with wings bearing the initials “MT” are on the football players’ royal blue jerseys.

At the Aug. 26 funeral for Mollie Tibbetts in BGM’s gymnasium, her father encouraged people there to “turn toward life,” to find things to celebrate, starting with a couple in attendance who had gotten married the day before.

“That felt good,” Rob Tibbetts told the 1,200-plus people at the service. “That’s what Mollie would have done. Let’s try one more. Let’s hear it for the Bears football team — for their first win (two days earlier, at Lisbon).”

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Obviously, no one at BGM or in the area would even hint at suggesting any football success is a magic tonic for a community that was in the national news for a horrendous, senseless thing. But in turning toward life, a grandstand full of fans cheering for a hustling group of kids looked and sounded like a good kind of normalcy. That isn’t a small thing.

“People around here need something positive,” Burns said. “They’ve really rallied around this team. It’s been a point of stability for them. I’m glad we can go out and get a few wins for them.”

But the Bears must get back to work Monday. They host a good Pekin team this Friday.

“Huge week, a championship week,” Burns told his team. Then he closed his postgame remarks by asking the players a question about themselves.

“Winners or losers?”

“Winners!” was their reply, loud enough to echo across their school grounds and perhaps beyond. It was an evening crisp enough for spectators to have worn stocking caps and wrapped themselves in blankets. But oh, the night felt good.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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