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|11/11/2017 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Eight players honored on
3A District 4 team as Sabers lay foundation for future|
By Ross Eberhart
The first year of the Mike Crane era for the Central DeWitt football program turned out to be a clear example of a work in progress.
Crane's hiring in mid-July gave the Sabers just over 40 days to switch from the triple option offense of predecessor Mike Miller to a new pistol spread look.
To no one's surprise, some hiccups and sputters occurred during the regular season, but also some stretches of strong play that belied Central's 1-8 record.
The Sabers scored a season-high 24 points during their game with district champion West Delaware, and threatened to take a lead into halftime of their game with the district's other playoff team, Davenport Assumption.
All told, Central racked up 2,005 yards of total offense this season - just 53 yards per game fewer than the year before - and threw for more than 900 yards for the first time since 2014.
Improving both numbers will be key next season, along with turning those yards into points after the Sabers ranked 50th out of 56 3A teams in scoring.
The defense, meanwhile, will look to build on a strong close to the season.
Central surrendered an average of 46 points a game in its first five contests, but lowered that number to just over 21 points during its final four contests.
A full offseason under Crane will be the Sabers' biggest advantage, especially since they need to replace eight senior starters.
That includes six players who were recently honored on the All-3A District 4 team.
For a second straight season, the Sabers placed three players on the first team.
Two came from the Central defense - senior Drew McNamara at defensive back and sophomore Ethan Pierce at linebacker - while senior Devin Koester was an offensive lineman pick.
Both members of the Sabers' backfield, senior Nick Smith and junior Easton Necker, were second-team selections, and so were seniors Drew Deke at defensive back and Max Cousins at wide receiver.
Rounding out the group of Sabers honorees was senior Jesper Andreassen, who was chosen as the district's lone kicker.
Not many quarterbacks were willing to get in on the action on defense like McNamara.
The Sabers safety tied for second on the team with 32 solo tackles and added 13 assisted tackles to finish second on the squad with 45 total stops.
McNamara was not content with just hanging out in the defensive backfield, either; he racked up three tackles for loss and a sack, and led the Sabers with a pair of fumble recoveries.
Behind center, McNamara completed a team-high 60 passes for 765 yards and two touchdowns, while also making an impact on the ground with 353 yards rushing and a team-high four rushing touchdowns.
Pierce was one of just four sophomores to land on the first team after a breakout season on defense.
The linebacker accumulated 46 solo tackles - 14 more than the next closest Saber - and seven assisted stops to lead the Sabers with 53 total tackles.
Pierce wreaked havoc in the backfield, racking up nine solo tackles for loss - another team-high - and the sophomore recovered a fumble against Assumption.
One of the few veterans on an inexperienced offensive line, Koester - a Calamus-Wheatland student - helped the Sabers to gain more than 1,000 yards on the ground and nearly 1,000 through the air.
Koester made his own impact on defense, racking up 28 total tackles, including 22 solo stops.
Like Pierce, Koester had no problem getting to running backs and quarterbacks in the backfield, notching eight solo tackles for loss and tying for the team lead with two sacks.
Koester even did some punting for the Sabers, booting the ball 14 times for 418 yards, with a long of 43 yards.
This was the second straight season in which Smith was honored for his play.
The running back received a lot of attention from opposing coaches and defenses, but still rushed for 524 yards on 110 attempts - an average of 4.8 yards per carry - and a pair of touchdowns.
Smith helped in the Sabers' passing game as well, hauling in nine passes for 84 yards.
On defense, the Sabers used Smith at linebacker and defensive end.
The result was 37 total tackles, including 30 solo stops and four tackles for loss. Smith also matched Koester with a pair of sacks.
Smith recovered a fumble as well, returning it 87 yards for a touchdown against West Delaware.
Often joining Smith in the backfield was Necker, who acted as the T-back - a position that could line up all over the field.
The spot took advantage of the junior's versatility. Necker averaged more than six yards a carry on the ground and scored a pair of touchdowns, including a 66-yard sprint against Maquoketa - the Sabers' longest offensive touchdown of the season.
Necker added 13 receptions - tied for tops on the team - and led Central with 219 receiving yards and another touchdown.
On defense, Necker matched Smith with 30 solo tackles from his linebacker position and finished with 40 tackles overall - eight of them were for loss.
Deke made his own impact on defense from his cornerback spot, tying for second on the team with two interceptions.
The senior matched his ball-hawking skills with a nose for the football. He matched McNamara with 32 solo tackles - good for second on the team - and finished with 34 tackles overall.
On offense, Deke hauled in 12 receptions and picked up 118 yards, while scoring a touchdown against Dubuque Wahlert.
The last of Central's three receiving touchdowns on the season came from Cousins, who brought in a 22-yard score in the Sabers' season finale.
That was one of nine receptions for the senior, who finished second behind Necker with 186 receiving yards - a team-best average of 20.7 yards a reception.
Cousins complemented his big-play potential on offense by giving Central another sure tackler in its secondary.
In fact, the senior collected 29 solo tackles and 35 total stops, while also intercepting a pass against Wahlert and bringing it back 65 yards.
Both Deke and Cousins racked up more than 100 yards on kick returns. Deke was second on the team with 134 total yards, while Cousins' 14.4-yard average was good for third on the squad.
The Sabers were nearly assured of points if they entered the red zone, thanks to the kicking prowess of Andreassen.
The foreign exchange student went 4-of-6 on his field goal attempts this fall, with a long of 41 yards. The four field goals tied for fourth in Class 3A, while only five kickers in the class were able to boot a longer field goal.
Andreassen added 10 extra points and racked up 1,260 yards on 26 kickoffs - an average of more than 48 yards a kick - with six touchbacks.