Prep Football

Benton Community rediscovers success under Kal Goodchild

Bobcats share district title, look for first playoff victory since 1980

Benton Community’s Jacob Stocker (55) celebrates with Nathan Michels (84) after Michels’ 6-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of their high school football game at Benton Community High School in Van Horne on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Benton Community’s Jacob Stocker (55) celebrates with Nathan Michels (84) after Michels’ 6-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of their high school football game at Benton Community High School in Van Horne on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

VAN HORNE — Kal Goodchild knew he would return to coaching.

He was so confident of a comeback that he never got rid of his playbook. Goodchild even updated the schemes from his first tenure during a six-year hiatus.

Unlike his 16-season stint from 1992-2007 when he took over an established program, Goodchild faced a resurrection project when he reclaimed the reins of the Bobcats in 2014.

“I stepped into a program with (former Benton Coach and current University of Iowa assistant) Reese Morgan in there and it was not a broken program. It was in great shape,” Goodchild said. “We continued running it in good shape. I thought I hadn’t been in a situation where I was really challenged like that, so I took with a leap of faith.”

Goodchild has led Benton back to the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons. The fourth-ranked Bobcats host No. 10 Greene County in the opening round of the Class 2A state playoffs Friday night at Bobcat Stadium.

Benton (8-1) shared the district title with Union Community and West Marshall. The Bobcats are attempting to win their first playoff game since 1980 and second overall.

“I think we’re pretty confident but we’re keeping our head on straight,” Benton senior Matt Davis said. “We don’t really know what to expect because everybody in the playoffs is going to be good. We have to show up to play and put pressure on them early and play all the way through four quarters.

“Being at home is a great feeling. The crowd is insane and the atmosphere is so much better here.”

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Goodchild posted a 106-38 record in his first stretch as head coach and has gone 28-19 since returning to the sidelines. Davis was promoted to the varsity level as a freshman. He has witnessed Goodchild’s impact after the Bobcats struggled to post a winning season in his absence. Benton was 3-15 in the two previous seasons before his return.

“I’ve known him for a little while,” Davis said. “I think it was a good thing because he really likes the game of football and takes care of his players. That plays into on the field, too, because we know we have a coach that cares about us.”

Goodchild was not ready to retire his whistle and coaching clipboard in the first place. He accepted the position of principal at the middle school and administrators didn’t coach at the time. Attitudes loosened on that policy and Goodchild was a prime candidate to rejuvenate the program.

In “Blues Brothers” like fashion, he turned to some familiar faces to join his new staff.

“I got to thinking I’m getting old so I only have one more shot at it, so let me see,” Goodchild said. “To be honest, we got a bunch of old Benton guys to help coach. I told everybody we got the band back together again.”

The Bobcats benefited immediately. The current seniors have not experienced a losing season, winning 75 percent of their varsity games the last three years.

“We coach hard, make them tough, commit them and make them work,” Goodchild said. “The kids have bought into it. These kids don’t know any different now. The kids who came in early were the ones that bought into it. These guys, this is all they know.”

Davis, defensive back Nate Michels and linemen Jacob Stocker and Easton Werner were all-district performers last season and part of 12 total returning starters from a year ago. Davis has already dwarfed his totals last season, rushing for 1,404 yards and 23 touchdowns. He has surpassed 100 yards on the ground in eight games, including a high of 274 and five TDs against Nevada. Davis capped the regular season with 199 yards and four scores against rival Vinton-Shellsburg.

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“Up front, we’re really solid,” Davis said. “We have some really good linemen and pulling guards do a great job. I think that is a big part of the success.”

Goodchild added, “Matt Davis was a key starter. ... Matt Davis is a pony for us. There is no question about that.“

Davis also credited junior quarterback Clay Krousie for his reads and giving the senior rusher the ball at the right time. Krousie has replaced graduated signal caller Spencer Touro and hasn’t missed a beat. Krousie has thrown for 1,401 yards and 13 TDs. Michels is his big-play target, connecting for 644 yards on 35 completions and seven TDs. Jack Shaw has 41 catches for 480 yards and six scores. Krousie isn’t the dual threat like his predecessor but has 169 yards and five TDs on the ground.

“He has stepped into our offense,” Goodchild said. “We’re pretty modern football and we do a lot of really nice things. He’s picked up reads and adjusted to us well.”

The Bobcats have amassed 3,241 total yards and average 32.7 points per game. The defense has been adequate, allowing 15.8 points and a little more than 306 yards per contest. More importantly, Benton has forced 15 takeaways this season for a plus-8 turnover margin.

“We complement each other on both sides of the ball,” Goodchild said. “Your defense is only as good as your offense, because if your offense is three-and-out then your defense is on the field all the time. Our offense has been consistent all year.”

Greene County (8-1) is similar to Benton Community in the fact it has dropped down from 3A. The Rams have skilled athletes, who average a little less than 40 points per game. Greene County is sixth in 2A with 1,979 passing yards with 1,955 and 21 TDs from quarterback Brent Riley.

Goodchild said Greene County is a solid, well-coached team, but the Bobcats’ focus is on themselves. They haven’t discussed the district title or past postseasons. Benton is business as usual, locking in on the preparation for Friday and working on the little things right.

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“We just want to win one more at home and that is the biggest goal,” Goodchild said. “Try to do things right and get one more. Then, we’ll reset and see how things go. You can’t get two if you don’t get one.”

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

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