Entering its third game of the season, the Iowa Western football team has learned just how quickly situations can change in the world of junior college football.
Just over two weeks ago, the Reivers were No. 2 in the country.
But the last 16 days have featured many ups and downs in what is still a young season. IWCC defeated Coffeyville in the season opener before falling last weekend at Iowa Central.
The obvious bad news is suffering an early-season loss and having to regroup. The Reivers dropped from No. 2 to No. 7 in the rankings.
But the good news is that the Nos. 1 (East Mississippi), 3 (Garden City) and 4 (Jones) teams all lost last week, too. Nine games remain on the Reivers’ schedule, beginning with today’s 1 p.m. clash at Titan Stadium against the new top-ranked team in the NJCAA rankings, Hutchinson.
“I said it at the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a one- or two-loss team that makes it (to the title game),” Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said.
Hutchinson will bring an impressive balanced attack into Saturday’s matchup, their first game in program history as the top-ranked team in the country. The Blue Dragons are averaging 237.5 rushing yards a game and 236.5 through the air. Hutch quarterback Mark Wright has thrown for six touchdowns and one interception with 399 yards through the air and 202 more on the ground with another score.
Strohmeier said that his squad has a chance to prove its more in line with the preseason ranked team than the one that played a frustrating, mistake-filled game last week in the loss at Iowa Central.
“You’ve got the No. 1 team in the country, so if we really do think we’re worthy of that, now’s our chance,” Strohmeier said. “We’re at our place. (Hutchinson) has never been No. 1 in the country. How are they going to respond? Are they overconfident? Really confident? Sometimes it can give them a little bit, and sometimes it can take a little bit.”
Iowa Western will attempt to take a more disciplined approach Saturday. on the previous Saturday, the Reivers were flagged for 11 penalties, totaling 125 yards. The miscues affected scoring opportunities and field position and played a big role in the 28-26 loss.
“There was nothing where it was like, ‘Man, we’re just outmatched here,’” Strohmeier said. “But you can throw as talented a player out there as you want, and if they don’t play their assignment, you can be in trouble.”
IWCC quarterback Cam Thomas has been dealing with mallet finger this week. Strohmeier said he’ll play, but he’ll likely be dealing with some discomfort. The good news is defensive lineman Dominic Quewon and linebacker Sharrod Frazier will be back from injuries suffered in Week 1.
One of the bright spots from last week’s loss was the performance of kicker Chase Contreraz. The Missouri Valley alum connected on both of his field goals, the longest of which was from 44 yards. His improved performance follows plenty of offseason work, which included a number of kicking camps.
“He’s just been consistent, and that’s what we’ve lacked the last couple years,” Strohmeier said.