Prep Football

Sigourney-Keota dominates after last season's disappointment

After missing postseason with 1 loss a year ago, Sigourney-Keota is 8-0 again and in Class 1A playoffs

The Sigourney-Keota football team bursts through the Homecoming 2020 banner before Friday night's home game. (Jim Johnso
The Sigourney-Keota football team bursts through the Homecoming 2020 banner before Friday night’s home game. (Jim Johnson/The Union)

Sigourney-Keota was one of those prep football anomalies.

Last season opened with eight straight victories and a shot at a district championship. A loss in the regular-season finale to Mediapolis not only thwarted its attempt at a title but even slammed the door shut on a playoff appearance.

An 8-1 season without a postseason berth was hard to accept.

“All offseason we were still thinking about that loss,” Sigourney-Keota senior Brady Duwa said. “We were thinking about what ways we could improve so that doesn’t happen again.”

The disappointment served as a driving force in the offseason. Third-ranked Sigourney-Keota has produced its second straight 8-0 start. This time the reward is a Class 1A playoff game at home Friday night against Dyersville Beckman.

“We’ve all bought into we can all do something great if we stick to it,” Colton Clarahan said. “I just think all components of our team has played really well together.”

Last year's lone setback placed Sigourney-Keota out of the top 16 in RPI and behind other teams with worse records for at-large bids. The sting lasted well beyond the final game and into the spring and summer as players trained on their own since the pandemic impacted normal offseason workouts.

The team was finally able to get together in July and none had forgotten how last year finished. If they did, there was usually a player reminding teammates in the weight room to work harder to eliminate any chance of a repeat situation.

“I think for the guys that played last year their heart was broken, just as the coaching staff was, for not getting in,” Sigourney-Keota Coach Jared Jensen said. “I think that helped motivate a lot of those guys, whether it was to keep grades up, get together to work out or continuing to be a team to understand that it’s not about ‘me’ but about ‘us.’

“We have to take care of business if we don’t want this happen to us again.”

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Sigourney-Keota exorcised a demon with a 31-14 victory over Mediapolis in Week 5. Things weren’t discussed about revenge, but Jensen said you could see the fire in his players’ eyes. They wanted it and it was a good feeling to reverse the result.

“We were feeling happy about it,” Duwa said. “We knew, come Sunday and Monday, we were having to go right back to work.”

The week before was another notable victory. Sigourney-Keota blanked Pekin, 49-0, and that provided some extra confidence.

“It’s a backyard brawl every year,” Clarahan said. “It was very big. We knew we could do something very special (but) we’re still underdogs to this point.”

Jensen has noticed a shift in the program at Sigourney-Keota, estimating that it started when the seniors were in junior high. They followed the lead of previous classes, creating a tight-knit program. Players lead by example and want the best for the team as a whole. This has been key to the success.

“It’s a special group,” said Jensen, in his 10th season with the program. “The culture is booming. It’s something we haven’t seen since the championship years before my time here.

“The type of buy-in and culture the last few years have brought has us running where we’re at.”

The Cobras had some holes to fill, graduating a deep class. Strong skill players returned, including Duwa at wingback and on defense and Sam Sieren, who was the second-leading rusher with 1,122 yards and 13 touchdowns, and backup quarterback Cade Molyneux.

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The question was who would create the holes for them, bringing back just two offensive line starters. Bryce Greiner and Aiden Schuster were the only veteran players back up front. Greiner was moved to tackle. Senior Carson Sprouse, who hadn’t played since freshman year, decided to return and won the center position. Brayden Moffitt transitioned from tight end to tackle and Zach Smithhart filled out the line.

They proved themselves in the preseason and have made strides after a rough start in a Week 1 win over Mid-Prairie.

“We saw these guys were fully committed,” Jensen said. “The pieces we thought we’d have were fully invested.

“There was a lot of things on the line there, as far as, here are the pieces but are they going to work how we want them to work? So far, they have.”

Sigourney-Keota averages more than 45 points per game. The skill players have put up some strong numbers. Sieren has surpassed 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season, rushing for 1,056 and 17 touchdowns. Molyneux has 980 total yards, including 516 rushing and 448 passing.

Duwa has added 623 yards combined rushing and receiving. He has scored 13 TDs, returning two kickoffs and two punts for scores. Duwa also has a team-high four interceptions.

“It’s been good for the skill guys,” Jensen said. “They have a good core group there.”

The defense has played stout and might be the difference from other successful Sigourney-Keota teams. The Cobras allow less than nine points per game and have shut out two teams this season.

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“It’s something we haven’t had in the 10 years I’ve been here,” Jensen said. “We’ve always just had to outscore opponents.

“We’ve played good enough defense to not give up a ton of points, but the last couple years we’ve seen the importance of defense.”

Sigourney-Keota expects a tough test with Dyersville Beckman (6-2). They know they have to be at their best. Duwa said the focus has been to win each little task.

They hold their destiny in their own hands. The last time they didn’t it didn’t work out well for them.

“I think this team can go as far as we want,” Duwa said. “We’re still taking it one day at a time.

"That’s been our goal all year. Just go out and go 1-0, whether it’s on that play, the game, week or whatever. Just do your best every single day, every single rep, and we know we can go pretty far and hopefully come out on top.”

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

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