MARENGO — Football coaches are used to linemen begging to get their mitts on the ball.
We’ve all seen them in the backfield on short-yardage situations or run tackle-eligible plays.
The exchange between Garet Sims and Iowa Valley Coach Cody Snitker was a little different last spring. Sims, an all-district running back who rushed for 1,314 yards and 25 touchdowns, offered to trade carrying the ball for blocking.
“I went up to coach and just asked him, ‘Hey, man. Maybe we ought to do this?’ since we lost all of our linemen,” Sims said. “He said he thought it was a good idea. He had thought of it but didn’t want to bring it up and didn’t know how I’d take it.”
Sims’ move prompted more changes and the Tigers have benefited from the unselfish, team-first attitude. Iowa Valley has ascended to fifth in The Gazette’s latest prep football rankings and takes a 5-0 record into Friday night’s 8-Player District 4 showdown with English Valleys at North English.
Snitker recalled how Sims approached him in his classroom and acknowledged it was an odd, but necessary, option.
“He is one of those leadership guys in the first place,” Snitker said of Sims. “Some people will think you’re a little crazy if you’re going to move your best player to the offensive line. That’s OK, too, because it made us a better team.”
The Tigers graduated all three starting linemen from last season. Sims recognized the talent behind him, noting that he was the only thing keeping them from putting up big numbers.
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Junior Ben Smith and senior Noah Mumby have picked up the production. Smith leads the way with 510 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, passing for 357 yards and four scores. Mumby has 425 yards and seven TDs. The Tigers lead all 8-Player teams with 1,847 rushing yards and their 35 TDs on the ground ranks third.
“I knew if they worked in the offseason they’d get there,” Sims said. “I thought if they can take the load I was about to take I can just move to the line and we’d be a way better football team.”
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder wasn’t the only one to move to the trenches. Former tight end Breven Platt was Iowa Valley’s leading receiver at one point before being injured last year. He finished second with 289 receiving yards, 18 behind Sims. After Sims moved, Platt did the same, allowing Snitker to get his best eight players on the field and filling 2/3 of the vacant blocking spots.
“They were previously big skill players for us and now they are probably our two best blockers on the team,” Snitker said. “It was pretty selfless of both of them.
“Everyone heard but no one really believed it. They respect them for doing it. … It says a lot about the kids behind him that he thought that much of them that they should be getting the ball in front of him.”
Sims hasn’t been restricted to the line. He has returned to the backfield in certain situations, including third-downs or short yardage. Sims does have 140 yards on 10 carries with five TDs, getting his first touches in Week 2 against WACO.
“If we need 3 yards, sometimes it’s easier instead of having the blocking up front to just give it to a horse and let him get those yards the hard way,” Snitker said. “He gets us some tough yards when we needed it.”
Sims said the transition was a little weird. He was used to certain technique, but adjusted quickly. One of the things that helped was his wrestling history. Sims is a two-time state medalist and three-time state qualifier, finishing second at 182 pounds in February. Some of his mat skills transferred to the gridiron.
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“It helps with both the physicality and being able to move,” Sims said. “It’s a big thing on the line that if you can get leverage on them you’ve already won half the battle.”
Snitker agreed and added, “He’s been a wrestler his whole life. I think that has been a huge positive. He’s really good in hips, strong in the legs and upper body.”
Sims has developed a better appreciation for the work linemen do. It takes a lot more guts for less glory. He is glad to do it for the team.
“These guys did do a lot of work up here,” Sims said. “You think, it’s not that hard to go make the block. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”
The Tigers enter a tough stretch of their schedule. English Valleys is 4-1. Unbeaten New London comes to town next week with a possible district title and automatic playoff berth on the line.
“We’ve been taking it week-by-week,” Snitker said. “These guys are locked in. They are ready to roll. Whoever is in front of them they find a way to get amped for it.”
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