CASCADE — Success breeds success.
The concept is easy to understand and widely accepted. Cascade has reaped the rewards.
The Cougars have set a school record with 10 victories and reached the Class 2A state football quarterfinals for the first time thanks to a group of athletes, who have contributed to state basketball team and one of the state’s top baseball programs. Second-ranked Cascade hosts No. 9 Union Community Friday night with a trip to the UNI-Dome on the line.
“We want our kids to be competitors for as many activities as they can get into, whether it’s basketball, wrestling, track or baseball,” Cascade Coach Tim Frake said. “We want them to stay active, be competitive and this group has done a great job of that. You can see it carry over on the football field.”
The Cougars (10-0) have reached the playoffs for the eighth time in Frake’s 13 years as head coach. Many of them have experienced similar results in other arenas.
Six current players were on last year’s state-qualifying basketball team, including Derek Koppes, John Supple and Haris Hoffman who were members of the 2016 state runner-up squad. The Cougars are a combined 44-7 the last two winters.
Eight players were a part of Cascade’s highly-ranked baseball team last summer, winning 25 games and making it to the substate final for the second straight season. Koppes, Supple, Hoffman, Blake Simon, Logan Otting, Riley Reed and Reid Rausch are among those who were on the 2016 team that won 28 games.
“We are very blessed to have athletes that are involved and have success in other sports,” Frake said. “It shows when they play on Friday nights.”
Certain aspects transfer from the field to the court to the diamond and back to the field. Preparation, hard work and learning to win carry over to the next season. These Cougars have done plenty of it.
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“It helps,” said Hoffman, Cascade’s quarterback who has thrown for 1,628 yards and 17 touchdowns. “It gets us ready for the really hard games. Being able to be mentally ready for those big games helps us get ready for big games that are coming up.”
Spending much of the year together in multiple sports has built a strong bond with many of the players. The Cougars have a strong camaraderie, bolstering their faith in each other and motivation to produce for each other in crucial moments in games.
“We’re really close with each other,” Hoffman said. “A small school helps us a lot because we have classes with each other. All the different stuff we do.
“Whenever we can we hang out. We all go to one house to hang out with each other. It’s nice to be that close as a team.”
Cascade turned heads winning a district that boasts three of the eight 2A quarterfinalists. The Cougars won 10 straight games for the first time in school history. Frake said the team has developed into a well-rounded football team that can run and pass with a combination of size and speed on the lines.
The Cougars are versatile on both sides of the ball.
“When teams play us, we can adjust and adapt pretty quickly because we are capable of running and passing the football (and) stopping the run and pass,” Frake said. “We’re just a deep, balanced team.”
The balance was a question mark at the start of the season. The Cougars returned leading rusher Austin Lieurance, who has similar numbers to a year ago rushing for 1,245 and 17 TDs this season. Cascade also had four of its five starting lineman back, looking to be a run-oriented attack.
Hoffman has stepped in under center and solidified the quarterback position, producing key plays when the pass is needed. Supple leads the way with 694 yards on 31 catches and seven scores. Otting has 531 yards on 23 catches and Simon adds 288 receiving yards. Otting and Simon both have five TDs.
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“We knew we had plenty of good receivers coming into the season. We just didn’t know how we were going to get them the ball,” Frake said. “He’s done an excellent job there, which has made us that much more dangerous.”
The Cougars have managed to play a little defense as well. Defense was a point of emphasis to start practice. A program known for its offense found out it had some players that liked to mix it up on the other side of the ball. Cascade has allowed less than 11 points per game and no more than 21, shutting out two foes.
“You can see it on the field,” Frake said about the defensive mentality. “We are a physical football team. We love to play defense and love to get after it. It’s made a huge difference in this team compared to other talented teams we’ve had at Cascade.”
Cascade faces a tough foe in Union, which improved to 7-3 after a 42-0 thumping of No. 8 Aplington-Parkersburg in the first round. The Knights’ Troy Hanus set the school’s single-season passing record, entering this game with 1,815 yards in the air. He also has 20 passing TDs. Koby Alpers has reeled in 10 of those TDs and has 758 receiving yards.
Frake said the Cougars are focused on themselves and don’t have any pressure to match Week 9’s 28-21 victory over Union.
“We have certain expectations,” Frake said. “We have a certain level of play we’re trying to accomplish, so we’re not taking into effect who we play (or) whether we play them twice or three times.”
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