With a 2-4 season record following a tough 15-8 loss at Waverly-Shell Rock, Oct. 4, the West Delaware football team had a choice to make.
Some teams throw in the towel, while others circle the wagons and play their best football of the season the final three weeks of the campaign.
The Hawks did the latter, winning their final three Class 3A, District 3 contests to finish a solid 5-4 on the year, winning a tough, 26-20, week-seven contest with a strong Decorah team, following that up with a 47-7 victory at Charles City, and ending the season with a thrilling, 36-35, win at Waterloo East.
“We started slow this year. That’s something we want to make sure to address and fix for next year,” said coach Doug Winkowitsch. “We made huge gains throughout the season. We improved weekly and showed a lot of fight.”
After opening the season with a surprising 17-15 loss at Wahlert on a last-second field goal, the Hawks took two in a row at Brown Field, defeating Marion, 32-20, and winning a very competitive 23-7 contest with Mount Vernon.
A hard-fought 28-12 loss to defending 3A State Champion Cedar Rapids Xavier in week four was followed up by a 33-0 loss to Highway 20 rival and eventual District 3 champion Independence, Sept. 27.
“A win or loss will never define us,” Winkowitsch said. “The will to work to be the best and finish is always important.”
The Hawks scored 22.1 points per game, averaging 305.5 total yards a contest, passing for nearly 1,000 yards on the year and rushing for 1,763 yards.
Junior quarterback Jared Voss was a dual-threat, completing 67-of-138 passes for 993 yards and five touchdowns and running for 316 yards on 105 carries.
Kyle Kelley was Voss’ favorite target, snagging 30 passes for 496 yards and three touchdowns, while Alias Underwood caught 17 balls for 214 yards and Logan Woellert 13 for 193 yards and a touchdown.
The Hawks’ late-season surge was fueled in large part by a renewed rushing game, with Cael Meyer and Wyatt Voelker carrying the load. Meyer led the team with 732 yards, and Voelker hammered his way to 508, while Underwood was a change of pace runner, with 163.
The West Delaware defense allowed 20.2 points per game, as linebackers Voelker and Kale Rempe led the team in tackles, with 56.5 and 46.5 respectively. Voelker also led the Hawks with 13 tackles for loss. Kieran Monaghan registered 40 tackles, 11 for loss, followed by Joe Burke (36.5), Christian Nunley (36.5) and Jadyn Peyton (35.5).
“Our guys showed tremendous grit mid-year,” said Winkowitsch. “The expectation is to be the best on and off the field. The determination these guys showed and the fight they gave us is exactly what we expect.”
The Hawks will lose nine seniors — Sam Loecke, Tyler Traver, Mason Gillihan, Rempe, Burke, Ben Petlon, Chad Bishop, Sam Lyness and Grant Schneiders — but with a solid nucleus returning, including the entire skill group, there is optimism looking to the 2020 season.
“Our seniors gave us great leadership and have worked hard the last few years to get better,” Winkowitsch said. “They did a great job of accepting their roles and helping our young guys fit into some key spots.”
“We are very optimistic about next year,” he said. “We have 11 starters back on offense and we feel we have many guys that will battle for spots on both sides of the ball. The competition in practice will be intense. With the experience coming back, the talent in the two grades and the desire these guys have to get better, we are excited.”
West Delaware season statistical leaders: passing — Voss 67-of-38 for 993 and five TDs; rushing — Meyer 172-for-732 and six TDs, Voelker 73-for-508 and six TDs, Voss 105-for-316 and eight TDs, Underwood 34-for-163 and three TDs, Peyton 1-for-36 and one TD, Woellert 1-for-, Loecke 1-for-3; receiving — Kelley 30-for-496 and three TDs, Underwood 17-for-214, Woellert 13-for-193 and one TD, Meyer 3-for-38, Loecke 2-for-33, Voelker 1-for-10 and one TD, Jamison Smith 1-for-9; interceptions — Traver three, Woellert two, Peyton one; fumble recoveries — Voelker three, Underwood, Rempe, Peyton, and Elias Tibbott one; punting — Ben Petlon 41-for-36.0 average, Voss 3-for 33 average; PAT kicks — Underwood 6-of-8, Ben Petlon 6-of-14; tackles — Voelker 56.5, Rempe 45.5, Monaghan 40, Burke and Nunley 36.5, Peyton 35.5, Traver 29, Carson Petlon 20.5, Loecke and Woellert 20, Kelley 15.5, Smith 10, Carter Krogmann eight, Kyle Cole 6.5, Luke Kehrli five, Ben Petlon 4.5, Bishop four, Underwood 3.5, Voss three, Ethan Proper 2.5, Lyness and Mitch Krogmann two, Tibbott 1.5, Meyer and Josh Seeley one.