Hangover? What hangover?
A sudden, disappointing end to an incredible 2010 season loomed over the Moravia football program as the Mohawks prepared for this season. It would have been understandable if the memory of a 21-20 first-round playoff loss to CAM, Anita would have led to a slow start to the 2011 season opener at Ankeny Christian.
Six first-quarter touchdowns erased any fear of a slow start. If anything, last week’s 76-21 road win proved that it’s full speed ahead for the sudden Eight-Player power out of Appanoose County.
The Mohawks finished last week with the highest point total of any team in Iowa during the first full week of action. Still, head coach Dennis Whitlow feels his team can play even better.
“We felt like we played all right,” Whitlow said. “When we watched game film, we saw we have a lot of things we need to work on.”
The Mohawks have a new hurdle to overcome this Friday in their home opener in Mormon Trail, which is off to a 2-0 start to its season. The game will also be the first one played for the Mohawks on their home turf since their stunning loss in the postseason last November.
With Moravia having its fall festival this weekend, Whitlow expects a big crowd ready to have some questions answered by the Mohawks. Providing those answers is proving to be a motivating factor in preparation for this week-two matchup
“People have been asking me a lot if this could be as good as last year’s team was,” Whitlow said. “That’s what is really motivating the boys. These boys want to show people that we can be just as good if not better.”
Last season’s matchup between these two teams proved to be another major step for the Mohawks to a perfect regular season. Moravia put up 518 yards of offense and easily pounded the Saints, 60-6, in Garden Grove.
The early portion of this season has proven that this year’s Mormon Trail team will produce a much tougher test. Already, the Saints have avenged two losses from last year, beating two of Moravia’s Eight-Player, District 5 foes in Seymour, 48-18 in week zero, and Harmony, 50-6 last Friday night.
It’s the kind of start Whitlow says is very familiar to the Mohawks.
“Mormon Trail’s really at the point we were at last season,” Whitlow said. “We’re not going to overlook them. Just because we won last year doesn’t mean we can just roll over them again.”
Perhaps no Mohawk player was more eager to get back on the gridiron than senior tailback Tyler McDanel, who rushed for 1,423 yards and scored 30 offensive touchdowns as a junior. McDanel’s fantastic season was abruptly ended sooner than the rest of his teammates, as a concussion suffered in the second half against CAM sidelined McDanel with Moravia ahead 20-8.
McDanel could do nothing to keep his team from losing that lead in the postseason. Just two quarters away from the gridiron was two too many for the Mohawk star.
“Tyler loves football. He’s loved it since he was a little kid. He lives, breathes, eats and sleeps anything to do with football,” Whitlow said. “He felt like he let the team down last season. Injuries happen. We just have to learn how to overcome them.”
Any frustrations McDanel had throughout the offseason were taken out on Ankeny Christian. Moravia’s first three offensive plays were all runs for McDanel, who turned each into touchdown carries of 30, 43 and 58 yards. He finished with six scoring runs on just seven total carries.
Austin Cosgrove, who had 497 all-purpose yards of offense and nine touchdowns last season, also caught six passes in his senior debut last Friday. Four of those catches were for touchdowns and one scored a two-point conversion, meaning only once did Cosgrove get brought down by a tackle after making a catch last week.
It’s same to say that last Friday shows it will literally be tough to stop the Moravia Mohawks from achieving a goal that eluded them last year.
“I think (the postseason loss) lit a little more of a fire underneath them,” Whitlow said. “The guys were planning on making a deep playoff run. To have that end in the first round was definitely disappointing.”
This year, the Mohawks are hoping to make that deep postseason run that will lead them to one desired destination. It’s a place the Moravia football players have seen every day since last fall as they have prepared for the season.
“Within two or three weeks after last season, the kids were back in the weight room training. Some of the guys got a picture of UNI-Dome and ran off copies of it,” Whitlow said. “Now, everywhere the guys turn in the weight room, they see a picture of the UNI-Dome. They get a look at where they want to be at before this season is over.”