OTTUMWA — One win in 16 games can take a toll on a football team both mentally and physically.
For Nate Weaton, trying to guide the Fairfield High School football program through two tough seasons has been one of many hurdles the Trojan head coach and his team have had to clear over the past two years. Weaton had to step away from the team shortly after leading Fairfield to a season-opening win last fall after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Two games and two wins into his third season at the helm of the Trojans, the turnaround was officially underway. After going 1-16 in his first two seasons as head coach, Weaton earned All-Courier football coach of the year honors this season by guiding Fairfield to a 5-4 record, coming up one win short of qualifying for the Class 3A state football playoffs.
"For me, personally, is starting to see a program turn the page and seeing the kids buying in," Weaton said. "It wasn't just the varsity team. Our junior varsity team got off to a 2-0 start. You start to get that little bit of excitement in what the program is doing, you get more of those kids to buy in.
"In the last couple of years, when you're losing games, you're not turning the music on in the locker room and dancing with your players. Everything is better when you're winning, but we keep telling the kids to walk up to that ego line and take a step back. It's all about remaining grounded and remaining humble even when you start having success."
One week after Fairfield's win over Ottumwa, the Cardinal Comets had a signature win of its own as Cardinal rallied from a 38-28 deficit in the final minute for a 42-38 win over Davis County. Griffin Greiner, one of the top athletes that led the Cardinal football team to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in program history, caught the game-winning touchdown pass with one second left setting off the biggest postgame celebration in the history of the program.
Greiner led the Comets with 722 receiving yards on 39 catches and a district-best 11 touchdown catches. The Cardinal senior also earned district defensive player-of-the-year honors with a team-leading 89 total tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries earning All-Courier player of the year honors.
This year’s All-Courier football team:
Maddux Jones, Cardinal, Sr.
Jones edged out Davis County signal caller Carson Maeder earning All-Courier quarterback honors in the closest position race of the season. Jones earned all-district honors leading Class 1A, District 6 with 23 touchdown passes and an area-high 1,838 passing yards. The 6-foot-3 senior outdueled Maeder in the most thrilling game of the high school football season, throwing a touchdown pass two touchdown passes in the final minute including the game-winning pass with one second left to Greiner that clinched a 42-38 win in week three. The win helped the Comets ultimately produce consecutive winning seasons for the first time in program history. Jones finished his career throwing for completing 267 of 481 pass attempts for 4,516 yards and 50 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions in four years.
Cade Molyneux, Sigourney-Keota, Sr.
Molyneux follows in the footsteps of former All-Courier captains Sam Sieren, J.D. Stout and Peyton Crawford as one of the state top rushers. Returning to the All-Courier team after making it last year defensively, Molyneux established himself this season in the backfield finishing with the sixth-most rushing yards in the entire state after gaining 1,990 yards on 294 carries and 26 touchdowns leading S-K to a 10-1 record for the second straight year.
Gavin McCall, Davis County, Sr.
McCall powered the Mustangs into district championship contention and a postseason berth, breaking 1,000 yards for this first and only time in his career. McCall gained 1,054 rushing yards on 133 carries, a 7.9-yard-per-carry average, with seven rushing touchdowns. McCall gained 182 yards on 21 carries to help Davis County retain the Pennant with a 42-21 win over Centerville to open district play before rushing for 195 yards and two touchdowns in a 58-28 win at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, helping Davis County jump out to a 3-0 start in district play before an injury in the first half against Williamsburg haunted the Mustangs in a 41-8 loss to the Raiders.
Zach Smithart, Sigourney- Keota, Sr.
Smithart is not only back on the All-Courier team for the second straight year as an offensive lineman, but earned first-team Class 1A all-state honors for his play up front for the Cobras. The S-K senior's two seasons as an all-state lineman has seen the Cobras rack up 6,891 total rushing yards, finishing in the top 10 each season for total rushing yards among any team in any class.
Conner Reed, Sigourney- Keota, Sr.
Reed joined Smithart in earning all-district honors up front for the Cobras. With Reed and Smithart helping lead the way, S-K was the dominant team in 1A, District 6 winning all eight regular-season games before postseason home wins at 'the Snake Pit' sent the Cobras back to the state quarterfinals for the second straight year. As a team, S-K rushed for the sixth-most touchdowns in Class 1A with 39 scores on the ground.
Jackson Pence, Albia, Sr.
Pence earned second-team IPSWA all-state honors in Class 2A, helping open the door for a breakout season for junior running back Gage Oddo that included 868 yards on 151 carries and 10 touchdowns. Garin Grinstead, taking over at quarterback for two-time All-Courier signal caller Blake Chance, passed for 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns as the Blue Demons gained over 2,000 yards of offense including 1,094 passing yards and 1,065 rushing yards as a team.
Trey Armstrong, Davis County, Sr.
Armstrong paved the way to the most explosive rushing attack in Class 2A, District 6 as the Mustangs averaged a district-best 6.7 yards a carry, fourth-best overall in Class 2A, while racking up 2,089 total rushing yards and a district-best 4,276 total yards gained. Armstrong helped open the door for 2,157 total yards gained by Maeder, including 20 touchdowns with 13 scoring passes and a team-leading 11 touchdown runs.
Owen Byl, Centerville, Sr.
Byl follows in the footsteps of Brady Clark, earned All-Courier honors as an offensive lineman after receiving second-team all state honors in Class 2A for his play on the offensive line last fall. Centerville returned to the postseason, ultimately falling to West Marshall for the second straight year, with another balanced offensive attack that included 1,599 rushing yards and 1,333 passing yards, a total of 2,932 total yards gained improving on the previous season's total of 2,719.
Griffin Greiner, Cardinal, Sr.
Griffin, the Courier Player of the Year, will ultimately wind up being earning honors as an All-Courier defensive back simply because of his versatility that allowed the Comet senior to excel on either side of the ball. Greiner was named Class 1A, District 6's top defensive player after collecting a team-leading 89 tackles, including 67 solo stops while earning first-team all-state honors as a receiver and first-team all-district honors as a returner.
Caedyn Glosser, Davis County, Sr.
Glosser returns as an All-Courier receiver after again serving as one of Maeder's more sure-handed receivers. After leading the district with 29 catches for a district-high 631 yards as a junior, Glosser hauled in 28 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns. All three of those numbers would have led Davis County again this year.
Tayden Bish, Davis County, Jr.
Bish edged out Glosser as Davis County's top receiver this past season, catching a career-best 35 passes for a team-leading 490 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions this season. Bish proved to be incredible versatile for the Mustang offense, throwing and rushing for touchdowns including a 47-yard touchdown run at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and touchdown pass against Central Lee.
Max Weaton, Fairfield, Jr.
Weaton is proving to be the type of tight end that college coaches would love to sign up having earned all-state honors both for his pass-catching and his blocking abilities. Weaton improved on his receiving totals from his sophomore year, which ended with third-team all-state honors in Class 3A, by gaining 526 yards on 40 receptions and eight touchdowns as Fairfield produced a winning 5-4 record after winning just one game over the previous two years. This year, Weaton earned IPSWA all-state honors as an offensive lineman helping the Trojans rack up 2,303 total offensive yards with junior quarterback Tate Allen accounting for 1,211 passing yards, 199 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns.
Colton Clarahan, Sigourney-Keota, Sr.
Another versatile selection as Clarahan accounted for nine touchdowns, including four scores on 95 carries and 710 rushing yards while passing for five more scores and a team-high 452 passing yards. Clarahan also led S-K on the defensive side of the ball with 43 total tackles, but his spot this year on the All-Courier team was clinched in S-K's final home game as the foot of the Cobra senior produced a pair of field goals on a soggy field, including a 52-yard kick that ended the first half giving Clarahan six made field goals in nine attempts and 41 of 47 extra point kicks made.
Jesse Corneilson, EBF, Soph.
Corneilson led the Rockets with eight rushing touchdowns, the most in Class 2A, District 6 among for any underclassman and was second overall in the district with 1,364 total all-purpose yards. Besides gaining 850 rushing yards for the Rockets, Cornelison proved to be explosive on special teams returning 93 kickoffs for 333 yards including two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a 48-yard punt return for a score while gaining 150 total yards on eight punt returns during the season.
Brant Tedrow, Van Buren County, Sr.
The sack master of Class 1A, District 6 finished with 8.5 total sacks the second-most total tackles in the district with 75.5, including 47 solo stops. Sparked by the 8.5 sacks, Tedrow also led the district by making 16.5 total tackles for loss during the season for the Warriors.
Evan Vittetoe, Sigourney-Keota, Soph.
Vittetoe also recorded 5.5 tackles for loss this season for the Cobra defense. Each of those tackles, however, came against the opposing quarterback as Vittetoe led S-K with 5.5 sacks during the season out of his 13 total tackles.
Hayden Boas, Davis County, Sr.
Boas proved to be the most disruptive player on the Mustang defense, powering his way into the backfield to rack up a team-leading 10.5 total tackles for loss including three sacks. Boas was one of three Davis County players to earn first-team all-district honors.
Brody Tuttle, Centerville, Jr.
Tuttle earned all-district honors at linebacker, collecting 65.5 total tackles including 54 solo stops for the Big Reds. Tuttle added a pair of sacks and made three total tackles for loss while recovering a fumble.
Blake Jager, EBF, Soph.
While he led the Rockets ground attack on the offensive side of the ball with 984 rushing yards on 166 carries, Jager also paced EBF defensively racking up 42 total tackles, including 33 solo stops. Only Centerville sophomore Conner Stephens had more stops defensively among underclassmen in Class 2A, District 6.
Jax Mosley, Centerville, Jr.
Mosley finished third in Class 2A, District 6 with 68 total tackles and was second only to Williamsburg sophomore Derek Weisskopf in the district with 56 solo tackles for the Big Reds. Mosley added four tackles for loss, including a sack with a fumble recovery during the season.
Hoyt Dzwoniarski, Davis County, Sr.
Dzwoniarski led the Mustangs with 58.5 total tackles, finishing sixth in Class 2A, District 6, collecting 7.5 total sacks and 39 solo stops. The Davis County senior also recovered a team-best three fumbles and matched Dawson Townsend in coming up with four turnovers.
Levi Crawford, Sigourney-Keota, Sr.
Crawford was second to Colten Clarahan in solo tackles, racking up 21 stops for the Cobras. The S-K senior also collected an interception, made a team-leading 10 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns offensively and returned 31 kicks for 393 yards on special teams including a 49-yard punt return.
Jackson Manning, Van Buren County, Jr.
Manning returned to the gridiron this past season for the Warriors, taking over as the starting quarterback while also providing Van Buren County with a spark in the secondary. Manning finished leading Class 1A, District 6 with five interceptions returning the picks for 82 yards during the season while accounting for 759 yards on offense and 11 total touchdowns.
Cole Clarahan, Sigourney-Keota, Jr.
Cole Clarahan led the Cobras with four interceptions during the season, second only in the district to Manning, while adding 29 total tackles including 18 solo stops. Clarahan added 1.5 total tackles for loss, combining with Jack and Colten to give the Clarahan clan 115.5 total tackles with 58 solo stops and 9.5 tackles for loss.
Cayden Summers, Van Buren County, Jr.
Summers produced a 32-yard average over 32 punts, the third-most in Class 1A, District 6. The Warriors entered district play with a winning record, racking up 111 total points in the first three games before COVID-19 forced a shortage of players that led to a forfeit loss to Pella Christian and five straight district losses.
Nate Weaton, Fairfield
After a winless 0-9 season in his first year as head coach and a 1-7 campaign that featured seven straight losses last fall, Weaton and the Trojans turned things around immediately winning games over Highway 34 rivals Mount Pleasant and Ottumwa in the first two games of 2021. Those two wins kicked off a 5-1 start to the season, clinching Fairfield's first winning season in five years.