A Stout leader

J.D. Stout hopes to have plenty of reasons to smile this season under his Sigourney-Keota football helmet.

OTTUMWA — Even as freshman, JD Stout found a way to take advantage of his opportunities.

Stout had just eight carries for 128 yards during his first season of varsity football, a season in which Sigourney-Keota went 8-2 and qualified for the postseason. One of those carries, however, resulted in a 76-yard touchdown dash against Van Buren.

Stout gained another 591 yards as a sophomore on 77 carries, scoring seven more touchdowns while added 253 receiving yards and two scoring receptions to his career total. With Carson Crawford and Luke Greiner combining for over 3,000 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns, S-K returned to the playoffs finishing 2017 with a 5-5 record.

This was supposed to be the season Stout truly stepped into the role of the main weapon for the Cobras. Last season, Stout figured to compliment Crawford, who was back for his senior campaign in 2018 after rushing for nearly 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior.

Instead, it was Stout that would go on to lead the Cobras to another five-win season. With Crawford missing seven games, the last five due to a season-ending torn rotator cuff, Stout accounted for over 1,400 yards of offense including 1,150 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns.

There’s no question about it this season. Stout is the man that will looked to lead the way as S-K looks to make a run at its first district title in nine years, but he’ll be the first one to credit his teammates with finding success on the gridiron

“It all comes down to the guys up front. Whether it’s varsity or junior varsity, you can run wherever you want, but it’s that offensive line that determines everything,” Stout said. “Credit our linemen. If I have a good run, they’re usually the reason behind it.”

Stout saved his best performance for a true make-or-break game for the Cobras last season. In S-K’s final non-district contest at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Crawford was forced to watch from the sidelines after suffering his season-ending injury the previous week against Albia.

Just two days after learning Crawford would be done for the season, Stout stepped up rushing for 250 yards and five touchdowns the last of which came from 81 yards out late in the fourth quarter of a 48-34 win for S-K over EBF. With Stout leading the way, the Cobras chewed up 504 rushing yards to rally from a 27-18 deficit against the Rockets.

“That week started out and everyone was down. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do without Carson,” Stout recalled. “We just lost an all-state running back, but we knew someone was going to have to step up. It was the next guy up. We still had to go out there and compete on the field.”

Besides a strong offensive line, which also had to overcome a rash of injuries midway through last season, Stout is surrounded by versatile athletes in the backfield this season. Sam Sieren capped his sophomore season rushing for a team-best 166 yards in a wild 41-33 loss at Mediapolis, preventing S-K from potentially earning an at-large playoff berth, while Brady Duwa returns after leading the Cobras in receiving yards with most of the balls being thrown by Stout last season.

“The great thing about JD and the experience he’s had is that he’s going to be able to get everyone in the right spots out there on the field,” S-K coach Jared Jensen said. “We trust him with a lot out there. We might have a sequence where we’re having success running a certain play, we call for it and our tailback has run six of the last seven plays. If he’s tired, JD can just flip positions with him. He can read a kid and tell him that he can take this one.

“He’s going to be our centerpiece. Teams may go in there saying they need to stop No. 24. That’s fine with us. We’ve got three other guys we can get the ball to.”

Stout crossed the 2,000 rushing-yard mark for his career this past Friday at Schafer Stadium in Ottumwa, rushing for 195 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown in S-K’s season-opening 34-14 Backyard Brawl victory over Pekin. Last year, Stout got his first taste of being the featured back for the Cobras against the Panthers rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown in a 31-12 loss.

Beyond having success against their closest non-district rival, Stout is hoping he can leave his mark on an S-K football program that has had its fair share of great backs. The Cobras last district title came in 2010, which featured a 2,000-yard rushing season from Andrew Utterback. Jon McLaughlin also had a big year rushing his way to all-state honors while helping S-K win its last state championship back in 2005.

In 2019, will it be Stout that leaves his name among the great backs that racked up yards, touchdowns and, most importantly, wins?

“I really hope so. I feel like we’re even more balanced this season with Sam, Brady and even Cade Molyneux can step in there to handle some of the load,” Stout said. “I do feel like this is my year to step up and show everybody what I’m made of and what this team is made of.

“The wins are what matter the most. We’ll win as a team or lose as a team. It’s not just on one guy to win or lose a game. If we get our heads straight and everyone does what they’re supposed to do, we have a chance to run the table.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com.

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