CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe football finished last season with a flurry.
The Kohawks closed with three consecutive victories, riding the momentum into an offseason filled with optimism. From the end of last year to spring workouts and fall camp, the goal has been to transition from good to great.
“We’re looking to capitalize off that successful end to the season,” second-team all-American Rivers Conference linebacker Logan Rickard said. “Keep it going into this one.”
Coe returns eight starters on both sides of the ball and a veteran group from a team that posted a 6-4 overall record, going 5-3 in the A-R-C. The Kohawks open against Augustana on Sept. 7 in Rock Island, Ill.
“Those wins at the end of the year helped provide a spark for us,” fourth-year Coe head coach Tyler Staker said. “Our guys are hungry. They’re humble. We have a lot of returning players on both sides of the ball and 24 seniors. These guys have seen a lot of time on the field and they have experience and leadership.”
Coe ranked among the conference leaders a year ago. The Kohawks were second in total defense, allowing an average of 334.9 yards per game. They were second in rushing defense (109.1 per game) and fourth against the pass (225.8). Those numbers shrunk mostly during the season-ending win streak.
The Kohawks will be inexperienced up front, but have all-ARC performers in Rickard and defensive back Hunter Semelroth, who also earned D3football.com third-team all-West Region honors. Linebacker Brian Robertson is the top-returning tackler from last season, tallying 47 total. Semelroth (44.5), defensive back Jacob Elsbury (44) and Rickard (42.5) were among the team leaders in stops.
“We return a lot of guys and have a lot of guys stepping up in a couple positions we are losing (players),” Rickard said. “I think we’re coming in with a full head of steam.”
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Semelroth made impact with a team-high five interceptions, which was second in the A-R-C. Staker said he has witnessed Semelroth report faster and stronger than a year ago.
“He had an excellent summer and we’re looking for him to do big things for us at corner,” Staker said. “Hopefully, he’s in a position where he can shut down some of the opposing team’s best receivers and take that half of the field away. That will be big for the rest of our defense.”
Rickard had a strong junior campaign. He wreaked havoc at the line of scrimmage, recording 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Both rank first among returners. The fifth-year senior will be expected to be a leader and produce big plays by harassing opposing quarterbacks.
“He’s really good about rushing off the end,” Staker said. “He’s a guy that can make quite a few tackles for loss. He can be that explosive player for us on defense and he’s versatile. He can do a lot of different things.”
The Kohawk offense brings back quarterback Quentin White, who threw for 1,969 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. He will have two of his top three targets from last season. His twin brother, Colton White, had 670 receiving yards with five TDs in 57 catches. Matt Kopp, a first-team all-conference tight end, hauled in 27 catches for 261 yards and six scores.
With the potential for a strong pass attack, improved success will rely on the run. The top three rushers return, including senior Tyler Dralle, who amassed 515 yards and two scores. He will be joined by Mitch Stopko (243 yards, 2 TDs) and Cody Russell, who bulled his way to nine TDs last season.
“In the scrimmage, I thought we ran the ball really well in the red zone,” Dralle said. “We have three guys who can run the ball well and our (offensive) line is looking really good. I’m excited.”
Four starters on the offensive line come back, including Keegan Leliefeld, who is moving from right guard to left tackle. Staker has reshuffled a few more positions, but starters Danny Alcott, Robert Davis and Thomas Meyer will lead the way for a ground game that needs to improve from eighth out of nine A-R-C teams in 2018.
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“Up front is where it all starts,” Staker said. “Those guys have been playing pretty well during fall camp.”
Coe was selected fifth in the preseason A-R-C coaches poll. The Kohawks have a large senior class, looking to contend for Coe’s first league title since their freshman season. They have been working hard to make one more run.
“We’re a really close group,” Semelroth said. “When we came in as freshmen, we got to experience a conference championship right away, so it’s been a few years rebuilding. A lot of guys stuck around this summer, so a lot of leadership usually is a good outcome.”
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