OTTUMWA — From Iowa City Regina to Wilton. From Mediapolis to Pella Christian.
Jared Jensen hasn’t had to worry about seeking out some of the best competition in the state to test the Sigourney-Keota Cobras. The state has done it for him.
Both S-K and Van Buren will once again find themselves in need of their best football week after week heading into the grind that is Class 1A, District 5. Wilton and Mediapolis, who each finished 8-1 last season, figure to be among the among the toughest tests awaiting any district team once again in 2019.
While the Warriors are still looking to get back in stride as a program with their third different head coach in three years taking over the program, S-K has a different outlook. The Cobras battled to the finish line posting a 5-4 record last season despite losing injuries to senior leaders like Carson Crawford and Zeke Boender as well as a trio of linemen being injured during one game.
Those injuries forced young players to step in to keep alive the hopes of finding a way into the postseason. Those young players will bring that experience back to the gridiron as S-K looks to not only return to the playoffs, but return as a district champion with a road the UNI Dome going through Cobra Field.
No questions for Cobras with district title in sight
When it comes to accomplishing the ultimate goal of making 2019 a special season on the gridiron at Sigourney-Keota, one major key is to win a district title.
For a program with so much prestige, it’s almost hard to believe nearly a full decade has passed since the Cobras last won a district title back in 2010. That was also the last season S-K advanced as far as the state quarterfinals.
Nine years later, Jared Jensen feels his team is ready to take care of business even with the likes of Wilton, Mediapolis and an upstart Wapello squad awaiting to challenge S-K.
“Just finishing second in your district is not a given when it comes to making the postseason,” Jensen said. “You want to win that district championship and not have to worry about sliding in somewhere into the postseason field.
“The energy is great for our team this season. Going through what we went through last year and still coming as close as we did to making the playoffs lit the fire in these guys. We’re light years ahead of where we were last year.”
JD Stout stepped up as the main weapon on offense for the Cobras after Crawford, who rushed for over 2,000 yards as a junior, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during a week three win over Albia last fall. Stout rushed for 1,150 yards and 21 touchdowns while throwing for 256 yards, most of which went to returning top receiver Brady Duwa (six catches, 128 yards).
“The amount of guys we have with the amount of knowledge they have from last year gives us a huge advantage going into the season,” Jensen said. “When we were at the Simpson College camp, I didn’t have to even hold the binder up to show them what play to run. The guys knew exactly what was going on.
“In previous years, we’ve had to teach the older guys to let them know what’s going on. This year, our older guys know it. With everything we went through, we were 5-2 at one point last year. We were there before things caught up to us, but I think that finish left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Almost 35 of our 47 guys committed all summer to wanting to get better and be successful.”
New coach, five seniors look to guide Van Buren
Van Buren is coming off an 1-8 season and returns five seniors.
The Warriors started preseason camp with 23, but now have 32 players.
Brian Johnson is a first-year coach, spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach at Sioux Central under Brandon Goodchild, who took three teams to the playoffs. Also spent a year at Clarinda Academy.
Johnson is a 1997 graduate of Oskaloosa High School, where he was a center on the football team.
“Last year was tough, and we graduated a large group of seniors,” Johnson said. “My first job here is to help try to change the culture here. I’m in it for the long haul.”
“It’s kind of like the tortoise and the hare. It’s going to be slow and steady,” he said. “You come in here not knowing what to expect, but we’re setting the tone with fundamentals and basics. We have to be able to execute those.”
Quarterback JT Metcalf, a senior, threw for 574 yards and a touchdown, but the Warriors graduated their top two rushers. Tony Davison caught 17 passes for 308 yards as a junior last season and returns.
“I’ve tried to take what’s worked at each stop and apply it here,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to happen in one year. It takes time.”