WAUKON — The hype train is off and running.
“We know it’s out there,” Waukon High School senior Dawson Baures said. “We don’t like to think about it. But it makes us want to do what needs to be done.”
Coincidentally or not, Waukon has become a football juggernaut since Chad Beermann arrived. The six-year run has included a 53-16 record and four deep playoff runs. The highlight came in 2017, a Class 2A state championship.
It was followed by a 10-2 season last year, ending in the 2A semifinals. The Indians lost their opener to Decorah, won 10 in a row, then fell in the UNI-Dome to Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley.
Another memorable season, to be sure. And possibly, a stepping stone for something bigger this fall. The Indians open the season ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.
“I’ve been ready for quite a while,” quarterback Creed Welch said.
One of Beermann’s jobs, for now, is to tap the brakes on the expectations, both from within the program and outside.
“High-school kids see the rankings and all that, and they think, ‘Oh, that’s the way it’s going to be,’” Beermann said. “We’ll try to temper that a little bit.”
Beermann understands the formula for the hype. Recent success. And a stable of returners.
“Our quarterback is back, Baures is back, most of our line is back,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of blending it all together.”
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Welch became the quarterback when Brock Hatlan was injured in Week 2. He went on to throw for 2,457 yards and 29 touchdowns.
“It just felt comfortable,” Welch said. “I really liked it.”
Baures compiled 1,255 rushing yards and 1,001 receiving yards, with 31 total touchdowns. He also collected 37.5 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries on defense.
Ethan O’Neil added 670 rushing yards. Carter Benzing accounted for 51 tackles (seven for loss). Avery Rocksvold intercepted six passes, Brady Behrend five.
And Hatlan, the former starting quarterback? Not forgotten.
“A real good athlete,” Beermann said, “He’ll be used a lot as a receiver and back this year.”
Formerly the coach at Valley Community, Beermann was out of a head-coaching job when Valley merged with North Fayette. Since he took the reins at Waukon, the Indians were 2A runners-up in 2013, quarterfinalists in 2015, champions in 2017 and semifinalists last year.
“Right now, we’ve just got a good run of kids,” Beermann said. “We’ve built a little bit of a tradition now, and we have an outstanding staff. That’s led us to where we’ve been.”
The Indians open, again, with Decorah. Then it’s a tricky test at No. 7 Crestwood.
There’s no time to fall for the hype.
“We have a lot of determination,” Baures said. “It pushes us to get in the weight room, and we’re very motivated.”
Coach: Chad Beerman (7th year at Waukon, 53-16; overall, 138-95)
Last year: 10-2, Class 2A state semifinalist
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Top returners: C Alyx Ede, OT/DE Asher Fahey, OT/DT Tanner Mitchell, DT Zach Thornton, QB/FS Creed Welch, RB/SS Dawson Baures, TE Reed Kelly, WB John Ronan, CB Brady Behrend, CB Avery Rocksvold, LB Carter Benzing
Key to making the playoffs: More than anything, it’s a matter of staying healthy and staying hungry. The Indians have the majority of their top players back from last year’s semifinal run, and the goals are more than merely making the playoffs.
Games to watch: The Indians open with Decorah, the only team to beat them in the regular season. Then it’s a road trip to Crestwood, which should contend for the 2A District 3 title. The pivotal game in district play is Oct. 11, at Waterloo Columbus.
Aug. 30 — Decorah
Sept. 6 — at No. 7 Crestwood
Sept. 13 — New Hampton
Sept. 20 — Cascade
Sept 27 — at Monticello
Oct. 4 — Oelwein
Oct. 11 — at No. 8 Waterloo Columbus
Oct. 18 — Anamosa
Oct. 25 — at North Fayette Valley