Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy of Coe Athletics

For just the second time in school history, the Coe football team has moved onto the second round of the NCAA Playoffs.  With a 34-27 win over the fourth-ranked Johnnies of St. John's, the 21st-ranked Kohawks will face the 10th-ranked St. Thomas Tommies next Saturday in the second round.

The loss was just the 15th at home in 128 games since 1987, while it was the fifth playoff loss in 23 tries for the Johnnies at Clemens Stadium. Coe improved 2-5 all-time in the NCAA Playoffs.

"This is my fourth time up here, sometimes we went home with our tail between our legs," Coe Head Coach Steve Staker said. "My son, (Tyler Staker - Offensive Coordinator) looked at me and said, "Dad, this might be the biggest win in Coe Football history."

Both teams exchanged punts on their opening drives of the game, but it was the Kohawk offense that set the tone for the remainder of the game on their second drive. On third and four from its own 45-yard line, sophomore Brad Boyle (New Sharon, Iowa/North Mahaska) found junior Michael Rozum (Byron, Ill./Byron) for a 10-yard gain that kept the Kohawk drive alive. On the very next play, Boyle again found Rozum, this time for a 17-yard gain deep into Johnnie territory. Looking to complete its third third-down conversion, Boyle found junior Tyler Takes (Ely, Iowa/Solon) for an 11-yard gain down to the Johnnie three-yard line. On third and goal, Boyle plowed into the end zone, giving the Kohawks the 6-0 lead with 6:05 to play in the first quarter, as the point after attempt was blocked.

To end the first quarter, the Johnnies started at the Coe 42-yard line, looking to tie the game. After moving to the Kohawk four-yard line, senior Calvin Thomas (Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph's) intercepted a pass from Joe Boyle and returned in 93-yards for a touchdown, putting the Kohawks ahead 13-0 on the first play of the second quarter.

"I felt like I needed an oxygen tank. I thought I was just running and place and just wanted to get into the end zone," Thomas said. "Conditioning kicked in and I was able to make it."

Facing a second and 13 from the Coe 42-yard line, St. John's Boyle scrambled out of the pocket and found Sam Pederson wide open for the Johnnies first touchdown of the game with 10:13 to play in the first half.

After the two teams exchanged punts once again, Boyle found freshman running back Brendan Leiran (Waukon, Iowa/Waukon), starting in the place of the injured Sam Hammes (Story City, Iowa/Roland-Story), for a 40-yard gain down to the Johnnie three-yard line. Two-plays later, Leiran fumbled, giving the Johnnies the ball at their own five-yard line with 5:51 to play in the opening half. Just three plays later, senior Tate Harrison (Nevada, Iowa/Nevada) forced a fumble from St. John's Stephen Johnson that sophomore Austin Lloyd (Center Point, Iowa/Center Point-Urbana) recovered at the Johnnie 33-yard line.

With 2:50 to play in the first half, Boyle found junior tight end Ryan Jones (Harpers Ferry, Iowa/Waukon) for a 10-yard touchdown pass, which again converted a third and short situation. The touchdown and point after attempt by junior Elliot Rausa (Waterloo, Iowa/Columbus) put Coe ahead 20-7. The Johnnies wouldn't go away late in the half, as Joe Boyle threw a 58-yard touchdown pass with 2:01 to play in the half to cut the Kohawk lead to 20-14 going into the break.

On the opening possession of the second half, Thomas forced another fumble from Johnson that junior Nate Clear (Dallas, Texas/Bishop Lynch) recovered. Coe wasn't able to capitalize on the turnover, but it did force the Johnnies into bad field position. After a three-and-out for the Kohawk defense, Coe took over at its own 42-yard line.

A 10-yard carry by Boyle on second and eight, along with a 10-yard pass from Boyle to Leiran on third and nine moved the Kohawks into the red zone. Facing third and nine, Boyle found Rozum open in the middle of the field for a 19-yard touchdown pass that put Coe on top 27-14 midway through the third quarter. The score held until late in the quarter when St. John's finished a eight-play, 51-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass, but the point after attempted was missed with :48 to play in the third.

With the Johnnies moving the ball down the field, Thomas recovered a St. John's fumble on third and one for a 76-yard touchdown, extending the Kohawk lead to 34-20 with 10:06 to play. Just three plays later, senior Joe Giachino (Waterloo, Iowa/Columbus) intercepted a Boyle pass at the Coe28-yard line.

"We were talking to each other on the field, knowing that one of us needed to step up and make a big play," Thomas added. "I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time."

While the offense wasn't able to move the ball, senior Ross Yeast (West Liberty, Iowa/West Liberty) forced a fumble on the punt return that sophomore Ben Carr (Clinton, Iowa/Prince of Peace) recovered at the Johnnie 27-yard line.

Coe marched to the two-yard line before back-up quarterback Patrick Wallace (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South) fumbled, with the Johnnies recovering at the three-yard line. St. John's proceeded to go 97-yards on just 16 plays in 3:18 to cut Coe's lead to 34-27 with 1:09 to play. A last ditch onside kick attempt failed for the Johnnies, securing the Kohawks second playoff win in school history.

As a team, the Kohawks were outgained 418-235 in total offense, but made for that while forcing six Johnnie turnovers. Coe converted 9-of-18 third-down attempts, while the Johnnies could only complete 3-of-13. Leiran led the Kohawk rushing attack with 51-yards on 18 carries.

"99.9 percent of the time you win the turnover battle and you're going to win the football game, take a look at the stats, we won the turnover battle and that was the difference, especially down the stretch there," Coe Head Coach Steve Staker said.

Boyle was 14-of-30 passing for 161 yards and two touchdown passes. Leiran and Rozum each caught four passes, for 56 and 49-yards respectively.

Before the game, Staker read a letter from former Kohawk and current Buffalo Bill Fred Jackson that stated "Believe in yourself and the guy standing next to you, go out and you can get the job done." That is exactly what the defense did today, especially at the linebacker position. Harrison finished with a game-high 18 tackles, with two of those coming for a loss.

Thomas finished with 16 tackles and the two touchdowns scored. On the defensive line, freshman Frank Weymiller (New Albin, Iowa/Waukon) had 14 tackles, including 11 solos, while adding to his single-season sacks record with three and a half more.

Coe will face the University of St. Thomas next Saturday at 12 p.m. in St. Paul, Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA Football Playoffs.