By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — ALBIA – After 51 years of coaching high school football, it’s hard for an opponent to catch Jerry Staton off guard.
Some may have been surprised to see sixth-ranked Albia, a team that had won its first three games by a combined score of 158-13, struggle on the road with Davis County. The Mustangs lost the first two non-conference games of the season to Fairfield and Centerville, two teams that fell to the Blue Demons by scores of 47-0 and 54-6, and had to hang on late to edge Interstate 35 by a touchdown during the same opening week of district play that Albia spent dominating Clarke 57-7.
On paper, it made last Friday’s match-up seem completely one-sided. On the field, however, it was anything but as Davis County nearly pulled off the upset against the Blue Demons before a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Brett Leshen to Zach Hugan helped pull out a 21-20 victory.
It may have been a surprisingly close call to some. Not to Staton. He’s coached too many young men in too many games to ever overlook anybody.
“A great football team is not known by the games that win going away but the games that test their mettle,” Staton said. “Davis County’s kids came really ready to play last Friday and we’ve had a couple two-year offensive linemen down, so we’ve been dealing with injuries. We had to move around some different players in different positions. We finally found that perfect combination finally late in the contest.”
After having its late-game mettle tested for the first time in 2013, Albia will look to pass an even tougher test for the program this Friday as part of its Homecoming contest. The Blue Demons host Bondurant-Farrar, who kept Staton’s squad from moving to 5-0 last season by handing Albia a 39-29 loss in the game that ultimately decided Class 2A, District 6.
“It wasn’t too hard to get the guys ready,” Staton said. “Homecoming isn’t my favorite time of the year, but Bondurant-Farrar kept us from being district champs last year. I think the guys are definitely ready for this one.”
Bondurant-Farrar enters tonight’s game in Monroe County with a 3-1 record, losing its only close game of the year in a game that was also decided by less than a field goal as North Polk won a 35-33 thriller on the opening Friday of the year. Like last year, the Blue Bombers are a team that primarily focuses on picking up offense through the versatility of its quarterback, Drake Fuller, while opening up holes for the running game led by Grant Petersen.
Last year, senior Colton Halder rushed the ball 30 times against Albia for 206 yards while scoring three times in the contest. Petersen, meanwhile, has carried the ball for 599 yards and nine scores through four games as Bondurant-Farrar has kept the same philosophy on offense while coming up with a new way of establishing the attack.
“I don’t think they’re as big as they were last year, but they are quicker,” Staton said of the Blue Bombers. “It doesn’t change how we need to stop them. “The important thing for our guys is to complete their assignment. When you stay in your assignment, good things can happen.”
“We just need to be the best Albia we can be.”
The Blue Demons will also be hoping to establish a new benchmark for perfect starts. After surviving at Davis County last week, Albia started 4-0 for the third consecutive year under Staton.
Getting past Friday’s game, however, would truly set up the Blue Demons for what could be a very big year moving forward.
“It’s a very tough stretch of the district. We’ve been 4-0 in the district in the past and stumbled in that fifth game,” Staton said. “We had Mediapolis down two years ago and lost on a late interception. Last year Bondurant-Farrar got us. It would be a long time coming to get Albia to 5-0 is we can get that done.”
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