Courtesy of the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil
By Tim Perera
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA
After a rough 1-3 start to the season that included Iowa Western's first in-season, three-game losing skid since 2009, the Reivers decided to fix their problems off the field.
That has resulted in success on the field after last week's 37-7 win at Dodge City and was most apparent Saturday at Titan Stadium in the Reivers' 52-0 rout of conference foe Ellsworth.
ZaQuandre White rushed for 148 yards on 18 carries, and the Western defense held the Panthers to just 56 yards of total offense as IWCC ended their two-game home losing streak.
Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said the win over Ellsworth was the most complete effort his team has put forth all season, and he got a chance to get players into the game that don't normally see action.
"I wouldn't say it was a perfect game, but it was good for these guys. We got everybody into the game or as many guys as we could get into the game. I think in all three phases we made some plays," Strohmeier said.
It was the first shutout that the Reivers have posted since a 37-0 win over Ellsworth in 2016. Western improved to 13-1 all-time over the Panthers.
Strohmeier said the turnaround the last two weeks is due to the work the team is doing early in the week.
"I think part of it is coming with some confidence there, and I think it all goes back to how we practice and prepare. It's been a lot better the last few weeks than it has in those weeks when we maybe didn't come out on the victory end," he said.
There was a local flavor in the win.
St. Albert grad Tyler Blaha hauled in two touchdown passes, and Lewis Central alum Josh Simmons grabbed a 12-yard strike from Cam Thomas in the second quarter that put the Reivers up 28-0 with one second remaining before halftime.
Both registered their first touchdowns in a Reiver uniform Saturday.
Blaha said the key to the improvement in the last two weeks has been team camaraderie.
"I think in the past couple of weeks we really came together more as a team. The energy we come with every day is a lot better than it was. Losing helped us in the long run because it kind of woke us up," Blaha said.
Simmons said he thinks the team is finally moving in the right direction.
"We're definitely going down the right track. We started off a little rough. A few things weren't clicking, but now we're clicking on all cylinders, and we're getting this thing turned around," Simmons said.
The Reivers (3-3 overall, 1-1 ICCAC) opened the scoring on their first drive of the game after going 64 yards in seven plays.
White capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run to put IWCC up 7-0. It was White's team-leading sixth rushing score of the season.
The Panthers' third possession began on the Western 3 after Ellsworth's Matt Bigley blocked a punt attempt by Cody Lindquist, and the Panthers' Julian Baldi recovered.
Strohmeier said the defensive stand was key going forward.
"You can't give a team like any momentum and give them any life. And then that game gets longer and longer. You know, you give them a chance. I was really pleased with our defense. That was a huge stand," Strohmeier said.
Iowa Western travels to play Independence next weekend.
Ellsworth (1-5, 0-1) 0 0 0 0—0
IW: Sheldon Cage 14 run (Contreraz kick)
IW: Josh Simmons 12 pass from Thomas (Contreraz kick)
IW: Blaha 15 pass from Thomas (Contreraz kick)
IW: Contreraz 12 FG
IW: Fitzroy Gardner 19 fumble return (Contreraz kick)
IW: Shelton Applewhite, Jr. 2 run (Contreraz kick)
RUSHING: E, Marice Whitlock 9-46, Kionte Blakely 2-16, Kvonte Baker 4-11, Team 2-11, Logan Ward 2-4, Jaron Early 6-2, Nascier Borden 2-(minus)1, Shaundarious Kimbrough 7-(minus)7, AJ Payne 16-(minus)25. IW, ZaQuandre White 18-148, Sheldon Cage 15-82, Cam Thomas 3-33, Shelton Applewhite, Jr. 4-9.
PASSING: E, Payne 1-5-1 (minus)1. IW: Thomas 13-23-0 138, Applewhite 5-7-0 75, Braydon Aker 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING: E, Whitlock 1-(minus)1. IW: Blaha 6-75, Samuel Ingoli 2-36, White 1-19, Marcus Rogers 1-18, Josh Simmons 2-16, Deshon Stoudemire 2-13, JaVonte' Richardson 1-11, Zion Perry 1-11, Luke Waters 1-7, Richie Griglione 1-7.