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Fourth quarter lefts Redhawks over Lions 14-0

September 13, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

North Tama football hit the road for their first away game of the season to take on Lisbon on the Cornell College campus, where a prepared Lions pushed the Redhawks into a rough three quarters.

"We knew going in they had some good linemen and had moved some big, strong athletes into new positions such as running back," coach Tom McDermott said. "I'm not sure our team believed Lisbon would be as good as they were. Lisbon was ready for us and we had our hands full."

The Redhawks had hosted the Lions last season in Traer, shutting out the visitors 49-0 as Tyler Morrison rushed for 136 yards. This matchup proved to be far different as the size and physicality of the Lions kept the North Tama offense at bay. Penalties at critical times killed several first half drives, pushing the Redhawks back 55 yards on seven penalties.

Article Photos

Quarterback Sklyer Staker (3) looks for an open man during action against Lisbon on the Cornell College campus on Friday, Sept. 6. Photo courtesy of Crystal Eskelsen, Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun.

"We'd have a good drive and then make a mistake or we'd have missed assignments on

execution or blocking," McDermott said. "We had a huge pass that would have been a touchdown, but we couldn't bring it in. Lisbon grew confident and we knew we had to make some big plays."

According to McDermott, players at halftime discussed how this game could be their "wake up call" of the season, much like the East Buchannan game the Redhawks squeezed by 7-6 last year. The Redhawks returned to the field with more confidence and eventually broke through in the fourth quarter as Gabe Kopriva threw to Tate Payne for 44 yards and a touchdown. 192 yards came from the passing game, a total the Redhawks never reached last season.

"We did move the ball well at times with our passing game, but our protection broke down and we're working on execution." McDermott said. "We've been fortunate to make big plays this season and last year, but sometimes we do have to grind it out."

Another big play did fall in North Tama's hands as Lisbon mishandled the ball on the subsequent kickoff return, leading the Payne to recover the ball. The Redhawks executed a power offense to lead Noah Weber to a six yard touchdown run, followed by a two-point conversion by Kopriva.

Weber led North Tama's running game with 50 yards on 14 carries, followed by Kopriva with 24 yards on four carries. Payne had 73 yards on two receptions, while Luke Pennell matched his yardage on three carries. Kopriva also had 40 yards on three receptions.

"[Kopriva] is an outstanding athlete and we're taking advantage of his skills this year," McDermott said. "He executed the passing game well and had a few good runs. As the season goes on, we'll more ways to use him."

Defensively, Staker led with 10 total tackles, joined by fellow linebacker Zach Greiner with seven total tackles, Jay Hill for 6.5 tackles and Ryan McLean with 5.5 tackles.

"The defense played well and the Lisbon coaches commented afterwards how physical our guys were," McDermott said. "Coach Greiner does a good job of preparing our guys, learn about the opponent's offense and they love playing defense. Our linebackers-Staker, Pennell, Greiner-played extremely and made our defense go against Lisbon. They have the experience we need and it's good to see the things they have done these first two games."

North Tama will be back home on Friday, Sept. 13 to host Wapsie Valley, a program regarded by several publications as a playoff team this season after falling just outside of a berth in 2018.

"Our phrase this year is 'take the next step' and this game is the next step for us," McDermott said. "Wapsie Valley is an outstanding program, has great athletes and are highly ranked. We have to do our job, improve what was shaky at Lisbon, play the best we can and hopefully things will turn out how we want it to."

The Wapsie Valley game will be the first in a brutal four-game stretch for the Redhawks as they follow with Hudson on September 20, Homecoming hosting Each Buchannan and concluding with an away game at Grundy Center on October 4. North Tama is currently 2-0 on the season.



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