CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe’s defense has been stingy and tough all season.
The Kohawks have been perched atop the American Rivers Conference in points and yards allowed. The steady and dependable unit was ready to answer the call each time it was needed Saturday.
Coe repeatedly turned Simpson away, including one last time with 28 seconds left for a hard-fought 10-7 Homecoming victory at Clark Field. The Kohawks remain in the conference race, improving to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the A-R-C.
“I’m really proud of our defense,” said Coe Coach Tyler Staker, praising defensive coordinator Cody Baethke’s game plan. “We rose to the occasion. We bowed our necks when we needed to and got some big-time stops when our backs were against the wall. Guys came up with some big-time plays.”
Simpson (5-3, 3-2) outgained Coe, 339-317, and held a 19-18 advantage in first downs. The Kohawks bent with no break, keeping the Storm off the scoreboard until there was 1:35 left in the game.
“When it’s a defensive battle like that our guys rise up and they like that challenge,” Coe senior defensive back Jacob Elsbury said. “Every single play. They might get one, but we’re right there ready for the next one ready to go.”
The Coe defense was placed in difficult situations when the Storm started two drives inside the Coe 10. A blocked punt gave Simpson first-and-goal from the 4 in the first quarter. The Kohawks didn’t budge and forced a turnover on downs.
“That was definitely a momentum shift,” Elsbury said. “They had us down there with our backs against the wall. Our guys just fought. It’s exciting.”
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A fourth-quarter interception return gave Simpson first-and-goal at the 8. Three plays later, Elsbury returned the favor with one of three Coe interceptions.
Overall, Simpson had four possessions in the red zone and nine in Coe territory. Hunter Semelroth thwarted a second-half threat with an interception and another ended in a failed 25-yard field goal that bounced off the left upright.
The Storm made things interesting with a 31-yard TD pass from Tanner Krueger to Terrhyn Jacoby in the final two minutes. Good execution and a well-timed hit allowed Simpson to recover the onside kick at its own 29 because a taunting penalty after the score was assessed on the kickoff.
Coe made one more stop just shy of midfield to secure the victory.
“They played an incredible game,” Staker said. “When we were having to fight, we came up with some big-time plays on defense. That was the difference in the ball game.”
Coe struggled to sustain drives at times and three other possessions ended in turnovers. The Kohawks conjured up a vital time-melting, points-producing drive in the fourth quarter that chewed up 71 yards on 16 plays and 8:18 off the clock.
Thirteen plays were runs and Coe moved the chains on key third- and fourth-down plays.
“That was a big drive,” Staker said. “We knew our defense was playing really well and we committed to the run.
“We converted those third- and fourth-and-short situations. I’m proud of our guys for putting together that drive when things weren’t going great for us offensively.”
Coe’s lone touchdown came early in the second quarter. On third-and-goal, Quentin White zinged a pass by a defender into the hands of tight end Matt Kopp in the left flat of the end zone for a 7-yard score. The Kohawks owned a 7-0 halftime edge.
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“We kind of set it up the play before where we were switched at the tight end set,” Kopp said. “It was there. I just made the play. I had to pull it in. It was a tough play, but trust everybody around you to get it done. It was a team effort.”
Kopp hauled in his second touchdown this season. He was a first-team all-conference pick last season, but he missed a couple games at this year’s start due to an injured foot. Kopp said he feels “great” and has had a lot of support.
“It’s all about the hard work and having my teammates there,” Kopp said. “They have my back. They have been pushing me all year to get back into it and play hard.”
The victory spoiled another homecoming of sorts. Former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Joe Meyer returned as the A-R-C’s leading rusher. He amassed 131 total offensive yards, including 106 on the ground. Meyer has 708 rushing yards through seven games.
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