CEDAR FALLS — Cooper DeJean was a wide receiver last season for Ida Grove OABCIG. A really good one who was first-team all-state, according to the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.
But the Falcons graduated their quarterback from that 2018 playoff team, a kid named Kaden Ladwig, who threw for over 3,000 yards and is now at NAIA powerhouse Morningside. The choice to replace him turned out to be DeJean.
“I actually played quarterback in middle school, then I switched in ninth grade,” DeJean said, after his team’s 37-12 win over Waukon in Friday afternoon’s Class 2A title game at the UNI-Dome. “It’s kind of crazy. Being a wide receiver all last year, then switching over to quarterback ... I had a chance to learn behind Kaden last year, so he helped me a lot. It’s just good to bring home a state title.”
Rarely does one player dominate a football game, but this kid did, accounting for 417 yards rushing and passing and four touchdowns (two each). OABCIG (13-0), a first-time winner, finished with 458 yards, meaning DeJean accounted for 91 percent of his team’s offense.
That continued the pattern, honestly. The junior (yes, junior) led the state, 8-Player included, in rushing-passing yards with 4,835 this season and had a cool 66 TDs, which led everyone in the 11-player game.
He’s not necessarily the most orthodox QB you’ll ever see, but he’s an athlete, has a good arm and was simply too much for each and every opponent. He was missing leading receiver Easton Harms (an 86-catch guy) because of injury here, too, but it didn’t matter.
“He’s a hell of a player,” said Waukon defensive back-running back Dawson Baures. “He could sling it around, and he’s got guys to catch it. It’s just tough to defend something like that.”
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Waukon (12-1) couldn’t quite finish off a season in which it was top ranked the entire way. The Indians were seeking their second 2A championship in three years but made just too many mistakes
Three turnovers and 11 penalties told this story. That included a holding penalty that negated a touchdown and multiple fouls for illegal substitution on both sides of the ball (12 men on the field).
DeJean intercepted terrific junior QB Creed Welch on the opening possession of the game. The negated TD came on Waukon’s second possession.
That summed things up perfectly.
“We didn’t come out and play the way we wanted to,” said Waukon Coach Chad Beermann. “I don’t think we gave ourselves a chance right away. Kind of came back and had a little upswing, but then they got on top of us again. This has been such a fun team to coach, so to have it go south that way, you feel bad for the kids.”
A short field goal and two DeJean touchdown passes gave OABCIG a 17-0 lead late in the second. Waukon responded with a Welch 3-yard TD run to make it 17-6 at halftime, but DeJean rolled right for a 31-yard touchdown run on the initial possession of the second half for a 24-6 Falcons lead. A 2-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter by Ethan O’Neill brought Waukon back within 24-12, but DeJean fielded a bouncing Indians kickoff, handed off to teammate Jake Nieman on a reverse, and Nieman housed it from 77 yards out to make it 31-12.
Nieman also had seven receptions for 98 yards and a score.
“They kept pouncing on us,” said Welch. “It was pretty frustrating. We just kept getting penalties that pushed us back on offense. That’s really about it.”
A senior-dominated team, Welch is just a junior who will key what success Waukon has in 2020. He finished here with 113 yards passing and 84 rushing, including a couple of scrambles in which he went one direction, then ended up totally reversing field and gaining yards the other direction.
He also picked off DeJean twice from his safety position.
“This group of seniors won more games than any group of seniors in Waukon history,” Beermann said. “They are a great group of kids, they are a great team, they play well together, have been together, obviously, for years. They ended up playing close to another full season (with all the playoff games) from what an average team would have. They’re going to be real hard to replace.”
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