CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe College’s football operations are based in a few connected small offices in an upstairs corner of the school’s 82-year-old Eby Fieldhouse. But though the headquarters may be modest, the results are anything but.
Coe has been a consistent football winner over the years, but this season has been a showstopper. The Kohawks are 10-0 and the outright Iowa Conference champion for the first time, and are hosting an NCAA Division III playoff game against Elmhurst College Saturday at noon.
The Kohawks were first in their highly competitive conference in scoring offense and scoring defense (399 points scored, 110 allowed), first in rushing offense and passing efficiency, and third out of the 239 D-III teams in the nation in turnover margin. Excellence is what that is.
The steward is Steve Staker, winding up his fifth season as Coe’s head coach. But it isn’t necessarily winding up this week.
Staker passes around credit to his players and assistant coaches freely and happily. He beams as he talks about his first-team all-conference quarterback, senior Jared McNutt of small-town Warren, Ill., an understudy to two-time conference MVP Brad Boyle for three years.
Staker said Warren’s football and boys’ basketball teams won just one game apiece in McNutt’s senior season.
“That’s a story,” Staker said, “from where he’s come from to where he is right now. He’s just a heck of a young man. He deserves every bit of credit that he’s gotten because he has persevered.”
Staker proceeded to praise Kohawk running backs, receivers, offensive linemen, defenders, assistant coaches, the strength coach, you name it. I don’t have the space to give you all the accolades. But this is a 10-0 team, so you have to figure the compliments are deserved.
Just look at defensive end Frank Weymiller from little New Albin, the most northeast town in Iowa. He has 11 quarterback sacks and has forced six fumbles. Last week against Central, the Dutch called a timeout before it took its first offensive snap, just to try to adjust to where Weymiller was playing.
Most of Coe’s players are Iowans, of course, including six of its eight first-team all-league honorees. They represent Waukon, Center Point, Manchester, Cedar Rapids. But it’s one thing to stock a roster. It’s something else to develop players.
“Number one, I think we bring in good-character kids, good students,” Staker said. “We’re kind of selective as to who can get in Coe College and who can’t. So I think we’ve got intelligent kids here.
“But if you take a look at some of our kids, they’re blue-collar guys. They’re just guys who know how to work.
“I think our coaches can relate to the players. … They can make the game fun, and the kids are still going to learn the game. And I think our kids respect that.
“They coach ‘em up. I mean, they coach ‘em up. And the kids listen.”
With that said, Staker went back to watching Elmhurst game tape on his small computer monitor in his small office in Coe football’s small set of offices. But on Saturdays, the Kohawks play big.
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