Eight Henry County football players named All-GTNS
BY AARON VINER
Golden Triangle News Service
Football is a battle, and new challenges presented themselves in 2016 for the All-GTNS teams.
A smaller playoff field left little room for error this year, and with only one GTNS team qualifying for the postseason, it showed just how many quality teams were left out.
The decisions on the All-GTNS football team were tighter than most years, with stiff competition leaving much room for debate.
Coach: Jared Jensen, Sigourney-Keota
After losing a large crop of talented seniors, the Sigourney-Keota Cobras reloaded under the direction of Jared Jensen.
Jensen’s Cobras went 8-2 this season, qualifying for the Class 1A playoffs, before falling in the first round. Sig-K’s two losses this season came to the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the state, Regina and Pella Christian.
Citing the team’s commitment in the weight room this offseason, Jensen directed his squad past losing a 1,700-yard rusher in 2015, and developed a new three-headed rushing attack that dominated opponents throughout the season.
Captain: Avery Moore, Sigourney-Keota senior
With a three-headed rushing attack, Sigourney-Keota could break off a big play at any time, and their home run hitter was Avery Moore.
Moore’s 1,937 combined rushing and receiving yards (1,509 rushing, 428 receiving) set him apart from the rest of the Golden Triangle teams, as he was named the GTNS captain for 2016.
With two punt return touchdowns and an interception return for a score, the Sigourney-Keota senior accounted for 29 total touchdowns on the season, while being strong defensively for the Cobras.
He finished fifth on the team with 30.5 tackles, while picking off three passes this season.
His offensive and defensive presence will certainly be missed next season.
QB: Cameron Baumann, Fairfield senior
There was hardly anything that Fairfield’s Cameron Baumann could not do on a football field. Baumann was a big reason the Trojans finished with a winning record of 5-4, helping them in multiple roles.
Baumann was a four-year starter for Coach Mike Schenck, who is sad to see him go. The Fairfield senior threw for 883 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for 1,041 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. His 1,924 total yards were fourth in the district.
On defense, Baumann collected 30.5 tackles and four interceptions. Even more impressive than his running, passing and tackling game was what he did with his foot. He was one of the best punters in the state as his 41.8 yards per kick put him second in Class 3A. Baumann was on the All-District first team and was nominated to the All-State team as a punter/utility player.
RB: Ricky Vargas, Mid-Prairie senior
Ricky Vargas capped off his tremendous Mid-Prairie football career with a strong final season, picking up 1,304 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns for the Golden Hawks, leading them to a 5-4 record in 2016.
Vargas’ contribution wasn’t only limited to the offensive side of the ball, as the senior led his team in tackles (51), while claiming 10 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks this season. Vargas also finished the year tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, including one return for a touchdown.
RB: Pat Canby, Mt. Pleasant senior
It was another fantastic year on both sides of the ball for Pat Canby.
The Panther senior led the team in rushing, with 1,007 yards and 15 touchdowns, and in receiving, with 307 yards and a score. Canby lead the district in yards from scrimmage (rushing plus receiving), with 1314.
Canby was also a menace defensively, with 53 tackles on the year, one sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.
WR: Keontae Luckett, New London sophomore
Keontae Luckett was impossible to catch if he had any open space in 2016.
He led the district in receiving yards, with 640, and scored six touchdowns through the air. But he was just as dangerous in the running game, with 736 yards and eight scores, which was second in the district.
His district leading 1,376 yards from scrimmage wasn’t his only major accomplishment this year. He also had 60 tackles, an interception, two kick return touchdowns and one punt return touchdown.
WR: Trent Lasek, Highland senior
Highland’s offensive attack featured multiple air threats, and none proved to be more dangerous than Trent Lasek.
The Huskie senior was one of quarterback Jake Wood’s favorite targets this season, catching 41 passes (tops in Class 1A, district 4) for 555 yards (second in the district) and six touchdowns.
He will be one of multiple seniors graduating from the 5-4 Highland squad, and will be a hard offensive piece to replace.
Flex: Jaivonn Willis, Washington junior
It was a unique season for Washington junior Jaivonn Willis, who had to fill many roles this season for the 6-3 Washington football team.
Willis opened the year as one of the top receivers in the district, and through the first six games of the year, played like it. His 462 receiving yards put him fourth in the district at the end of the season, while his eight touchdown receptions led the district, but the kicker for the Demon junior is that he didn’t play receiver in the final three games of the year.
A sudden injury forced Willis to embrace the role as Washington’s signal caller, and he thrived in the final three games, posting 345 rushing yards and 397 passing yards to close out the year, combining for nine touchdowns over that span.
Defensively, Willis had 10.5 tackles and one interception before switching full-time to quarterback.
OL: Seth Townsend, Washington senior
One of the unquestioned leaders for the Demon team in 2016, Townsend backed up his play on the field all season.
Leading one of the top offensive lines in the state, Townsend helped pave the way for a strong Demon offensive attack, while the senior was a top force for the Washington defensive line.
Townsend finished the season third on the team in tackles with 42, second on the team in tackles for a loss with 12, and recorded four sacks for the Demons.
OL: Aaron Vittetoe, Washington senior
Another one of the top senior leaders for the Demons, Vittetoe joined Townsend on the strong Demon O-line, and also earned the nod for a spot on the All-GTNS team.
Vittetoe was on the right side of the line, and helped Washington average 293 rushing yards per game (445 total yards per game) on offense, no matter who was in the backfield behind them.
One of the most memorable moments of the season for Vittetoe was being on the receiving end of a hook-and-ladder play against Fort Madison, rumbling in for a score from 11 yards out.
Vittetoe and Townsend will be tough pieces to replace on the Demon offensive line in 2017.
OL: Cole Helmerson, New London senior
Senior lineman Cole Helmerson helped New London compete for a district title in 2016 with strong play in the trenches.
Defensively, Helmerson led the way with 72.5 tackles, which co-led the district. He also had one fumble recovery.
He was also fantastic on the offensive line, helping the Tiger offense run through the majority of their district opponents this season.
OL: Dalton Bass, Mt. Pleasant senior
The Panther offense used the power running game to eat up yards all year, and part of the reason was a senior-led offensive line.
Dalton Bass, a right guard, was a big part of the inside running game, which scored the majority of Panther touchdowns this year.
Defensively, Bass had 29.5 tackles and two sacks on the year. He also led the team in solo tackles for loss, with seven.
OL: Tyler Davis, Mt. Pleasant senior
Tyler Davis isn’t the biggest center you’ll find, but he was still a huge part of the Panther running game in 2016.
The senior earned All-District honors this year with his great play on both sides of the ball.
Along with his work on the offensive line, Davis led Mt. Pleasant with 64 tackles and two fumble recoveries. He also had one solo sack.
DL: Bryce Sinn, Washington senior
Arguably one of the best defensive ends in the state in 2016, Bryce Sinn was as close to a shoe-in for the All-GTNS defense this season as there can be.
Sinn was one of the most disruptive forces for the attacking Washington front seven, and his team-leading 16 tackles for a loss and nine sacks back that up.
He also led the team in overall tackles with 64 on the season, and when the ball hit the ground, he had a nose for finding it, recovering four fumbles this season.
Offensively, Sinn operated as the team’s primary tight end and posted strong numbers as the team’s second-leading receiver (behind Willis) with 214 yards and three touchdowns.
DL: Tristin Waugh, Fairfield sophomore
Tristin Waugh of Fairfield is only a sophomore but he’s earning postseason honors like a seasoned veteran. Waugh was one of only two sophomores named to the All-District first team.
Waugh was a thorn in the side of opposing coaches because he made big plays on both sides of the ball. As a receiver, Waugh caught 22 passes for 435 yards, sixth most in the district. The sophomore also made his receptions count as he averaged a whopping 19.8 yards per catch. Waugh was also a terrific defender as his 32 tackles put him fourth on the team.
DL: Michael Fritz, Fairfield senior
Michael Fritz started for Fairfield each of his four years. He has been the team’s leading tackler for the past two years, and this year he was one of the best in the district. His 67 tackles were behind only Luke Shipley of West Burlington-Notre Dame for most in District 3A-5. For his work on the line, Fritz was named to the All-District first team and was one of only five players nominated to the Shrine Bowl.
LB: Tanner Murphy, Washington junior
Making his second appearance on the All-GTNS in two years, Tanner Murphy was a big reason the Demon front seven was feared all year.
Murphy finished second on the team with 54 tackles, recording eight for a loss and taking second on the team with five total sacks, to go with an interception return for a touchdown against West Burlington.
Expect the Demon linebacker to be a big focus of the Washington defense once again in 2017.
LB: John Dillon, Washington senior
In his final year as a Demon, John Dillon was a turnover-creating machine.
Picking off a team-high three passes for the Demons from his linebacker spot, Dillon was heavily involved in many of the 14 fumbles that the Demons recovered this season.
Dillon finished the season fourth on the team in tackles, with 27.5, while recording six tackles for a loss on the year.
LB: Brandon Smithburg, Fairfield
Brandon Smithburg was one of the Trojans’ best tacklers and its best ball carrier in 2016, which led to his selection on the All-District first team. He was third on the team with 41 tackles, to go with four tackles for a loss and two interceptions. He got some experience at the running back position as a junior and really took flight in his senior season. Smithburg ran for 726 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
LB: Zac Ebeling, Mt. Pleasant senior
Panther senior Zac Ebeling was a huge part of both the offense and defense once again this season.
His best work came on the defensive side of the ball, where he had 56.5 tackles, which was second on the team, and a team-leading 2.5 total sacks.
Offensively, Ebeling was third on the team in rushing, with 139 yards and a score, and he added five catches for 71 yards to give him over 200 yards of total offense.
DB: Colton Horak, WACO sophomore
The switch to eight-man football was a good one for WACO sophomore Colton Horak.
Despite being an offensive star for the Warriors, Horak’s work on the defensive side of the ball was what earned him the nod as a member of this year’s All-GTNS team.
Horak led the team with 61 tackles, and four interceptions on the season to earn the nod.
Offensively, Horak was one of the top athletes in the high-scoring game of eight-man football, accounting for 1,681 rushing and receiving yards combined; and with a passing touchdown, punt and kick return touchdown and in interception return touchdown to his credit, he ended the year with 28 total trips to the end zone.
DB: Bill Burton, Highland senior
In his final season as a Huskie, Bill Burton put together a statistical season to remember for Highland, earning the nod as an All-GTNS defensive back.
Burton had a nose for the ball on defense, picking off eight passes (tied for fourth in the state, regardless of class) and returning one for a score.
Burton added a pair of kick return touchdowns, led the team in tackles (52.5) and finished the year third on the team in combined rushing and receiving yards, picking up 506 yards and five touchdowns to help the team.
DB: Luke Greiner, Sigourney-Keota junior
Luke Greiner’s work as a defensive back helped him earn a spot on this year’s All-GTNS team, but he could have been a fit in multiple areas on this squad.
The Sigourney-Keota junior picked off three passes this season for the Cobras, recording 23 tackles in the process, but made a big impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Joining Moore and sophomore Carson Crawford, Greiner was one head of the triple-threat rushing attack the Cobras employed in their single-wing offense, finishing second on the team with 871 rushing yards and 12 rushing scores. As the team’s quarterback, he also tossed for 531 yards and six scores.
Greiner will be a key cog in the Cobra’s attempt to get back to the postseason in 2017.
DB: Brock Mullin, Winfield-Mt. Union senior
On a team that lost a vast majority of its 2015 team to graduation, Brock Mullin was a rising star.
He had an incredible year in the defensive backfield, with 27.5 tackles and three interceptions. He took one of those picks back to the end zone.
Mullin led the team with 273 total yards (220 rushing and 53 receiving) and had a big year on special teams, returning five kicks for 116 yards and a score.
Utility: Ryan Reighard, Washington junior
The All-GTNS list wouldn’t feel complete without one of the best football players in southeast Iowa on the team.
Despite tearing his ACL in practice after Week 6, what Washington junior Ryan Reighard did this season was on pace to be something special.
Reighard (1,025 rushing yards) was barely edged out for the district rushing title this year, despite missing the final three games of the season, and added 906 yards through the air, with 10 touchdowns, to help Washington to a 4-2 record before his injury.
If the rehab on his knee goes as planned, Reighard should be a full-go come the 2017 season, and he will be on a mission to lead the Demons back to the playoffs.
Utility: Noah Boender, Sigourney-Keota senior
In his final season, Cobra senior Noah Boender made his mark on both sides of the ball.
Boender was a key offensive lineman for the Cobras in an offense that averaged 352 rushing yards per contest, and was routinely opening big holes for the likes of Moore and Greiner.
He also led the team with 48.5 tackles as a defensive lineman, with 15 of those going for a loss, including three sacks.
The Cobras will miss one of their senior leaders on both sides of the line next season.