IOWA CITY — Iowa City Regina football coach Marv Cook calls it “quiet confidence.”
“We have a great group of seniors,” said Cook. “They play and practice with a quiet confidence — they bring a level of calmness to what we’re doing.”
The Regals, fresh off a trip to the state semifinals in Class 1A in 2019, drop down a class this year and enter the 2020 campaign as the No. 1 team in Class A, according to the Gazette’s offseason poll.
There are many factors that go into Regina’s No. 1 ranking — among them is the return of the electric passing tandem of seniors Ashton Cook and Alec Wick. Cook passed for 2,446 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2019, while Wick caught 79 passes for 1,161 yards and 14 scores.
“(Ashton) has the ability to inspire those around him, to uplift their game and maximize their effort,” Marv Cook said. “He, again, brings a level of quiet confidence and calmness.”
Ashton Cook earned third-team all-state honors in 2019.
“I think we have a chance to have a really dynamic offense, and my role as a quarterback is to put my teammates in positions to make it happen,” Ashton said. “We have a chance to be really special with the group of guys we have.”
Coach Cook also offered high praise for Wick, a first-team all-state player in 2019.
“In 14 years of coaching high school football, he may be the best route runner I’ve ever seen,” Cook said.
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Cook and Wick aren’t the only weapons in Regina’s offensive arsenal. The Regals also return last season’s leading rusher, Theo Kolie, who rushed for 922 yards and 8 TDs.
“Theo has done an unbelievable job this offseason,” Marv Cook said. “He’s done an incredible job improving on his hands, so we’re going to use him out of the backfield a lot, slide him out and put him in the slot.”
Levi Quinlan will provide more firepower for Regina, both on offense and on special teams as the Regals’ primary kick returner.
“He’s a great kick returner,” Cook said. “He had a kick return for a touchdown in the quarterfinal game last year that was huge for us. He’s shown that he’s a better route runner this year, too.”
Another player Cook is excited about is Nick Wagner.
“Nick is a top-level player who has been injured the past two seasons,” he said. “We’re using him as an H-back, defensive end-type. He is champing at the bit to get after it this year.”
Sam Aitchison, Blake Chambliss and Danny Molony also will contribute at the skill positions this season.
“I think the team we have now has a chance to be great and do great things this season,” Wick said. “I just don’t see our offense getting stopped very often.”
Josh Gaffey and Jack Keller will anchor the Regals’ offensive line.
“Jack’s a 6-(foot)-4, 265-guy, and Josh is a 6-2, 240-guy,” Marv Cook said. “They’re tough kids, they’re doing a great job for us upfront.”
Regina’s defense will feature many of the same faces as the offense.
Keller and Gaffey will play defensive tackle, while Wagner and Andy Wiese will play defensive end.
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“We always want to be stout upfront,” Marv Cook said. “Hopefully our four guys can bring pressure.”
The Regals return last year’s leading tackler, Aiden Udell, who recorded 63 stops. Udell, along with Jack Goedken, Jackson Hamilton and Kolie, will head up the linebacking unit this season.
The secondary features Wick, who recorded a team-high four interceptions last season, Quinlan, Aitchison and Carson Jensen. Cook added that Chambliss also will be in the mix for time in the defensive backfield, as will three or four others.
“We may have a little more depth than we initially thought coming in,” Cook said. “We want to compete, we want to guys to get after it. The competitive nature of practices has been good, so we want to keep building on that.”
Regina opens its season at home on Aug. 28 against Dyersville Beckman.
Iowa City Regina, at a glance
Coach: Marv Cook (14 years at Regina, 148-19 overall record)
Last year: (9-3, lost in 1A state semifinals)
Top returners: Alex Wick (WR/DB – All-State), Ashton Cook (QB – 3rd team All-State), Levi Quinlan (RB/DB, All-District), Theo Kolie (RB – All-District), Jack Keller (OL/DL – All-District), Josh Gaffey (OL/DL – All-District)
Aug. 28 — Dyersville Beckman
Sept. 4 — at Mid-Prairie
Sept. 11 — at North Cedar
Sept. 18 — Wapello
Sept. 25 Lisbon
Oct. 2 — at Columbus Community
Oct. 9 — Highland