WAVERLY - There were not a lot of blemishes on North Tama's football team on Saturday night.
Other than poor execution on a kickoff and one long drive by Nashua-Plainfield, the Redhawks came away smiling after a Week Zero victory as North Tama's defense dominated throughout and quarterback Jacob Wrage was unstoppable offensively.
Wrage accounted for all four touchdowns in the first half as North Tama jumped out to a big lead and never looked back, defeating Nashua-Plainfield 28-12 at Walston-Hoover Stadium on the campus of Wartburg College.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
North Tama quarterback Jacob Wrage (1) stiff-arms Nashua-Plainfield defender Jacob Scribner during the first half of Saturday’s high school football game at Walston-Hoover Stadium on the Wartburg College campus in Waverly. Wrage played a part in all four Redhawk touchdowns as North Tama prevailed 28-12 in both teams’ season opener.
The Redhawks, who are looking to win their second state championship in the past two seasons, looked the part against the Class 1A Huskies, who never managed any momentum offensively.
"We anticipated what they were going to do most of the night on defense," North Tama head coach Dan Oltman said. "I give credit to the players and assistant coaches. They did a tremendous job with the scouting report."
Oltman said his squad has areas it needs to sharpen up on, but he liked getting that first win in the books.
"We have some things we need to work on, but the first three games of our non-district schedule are going to be a good measuring stick for us," said Oltman, who earned his first win as a high school head coach. "We need to come ready to play each week, but it was nice to get that first win."
All of the Redhawks' points came in the first half.
Late in the first quarter, the Redhawks put together a 53-yard drive that needed just four plays. Wrage hit Mitchell Boerm on a 38-yard pass play to start it and later finished the drive with a TD strike to Boerm from 8 yards out.
Nashua-Plainfield answered the North Tama touchdown with a score of its own. Ryan Siefken took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 91 yards for the score. The two-point attempt failed so North Tama still led by one.
After that, it was all Redhawks as Wrage went back to work. Taking advantage of many short fields, Wrage made quick work of the Huskies on several drives. The second TD for North Tama was just one play as Wrage scored on a 25-yard run. He and Boerm connected again in the second quarter on a 24-yard TD hookup that made it 21-6, and then Wrage put the final touches on an impressive first half with a 26-yard scoring run.
Wrage finished 16-for-32 in the air for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 57 yards and two more scores. Boerm finished with six catches for 107 yards.
Brent Billerbeck also made some nice plays in the passing game as well as on kickoff returns, and Jacob Watson contributed to the passing game with some key catches.
"The sky's the limit with him," Oltman said of his quarterback. "He's quick and he adapts very quickly to things he may have to change along the way."
While Wrage dominated the offense, the Redhawks dominated on defense, led by senior linebacker Nolan Hefty, a returning all-state player. Hefty was in on several plays early and often as Nashua-Plainfield rarely got any momentum offensively.
"He's the centerpiece of our defense for sure," Oltman said. "He likes to make his presence known, and he'll most likely be all over the place for us all season."
North Tama did not score in the second half but had several chances. The Redhawks missed two field-goal attempts and turned it over on downs another time. It wouldn't matter though in the end as the Redhawk defense made sure the game stayed in control.
Nashua-Plainfield did manage to tighten things up in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Matthew Sharp scampered 12 yards to paydirt to make it 28-12 with 4:26 to play.
There were a total of six possessions in the final 4:26 as neither team mustered any offense. North Tama punted once, missed a long field goal and then ran out the clock in its final three possessions but the last two came with the second-stringers in the game.
The Redhawks (1-0) won't be able to sit on this win. North Tama will host Class 1A No. 5 Aplington-Parkersburg on Friday in Traer for the home opener.
"We are going to be playing a very good team on Friday night so we need to have another good week of preparation," Oltman said. "We played well tonight, but I would like to see us have more consistency in our pass protection and play better on kickoffs. We need to stay in our lanes better and be more disciplined."
North Tama starting running back Dalton Hume left the game early in the second quarter with a lower body injury. He did not return and Oltman did not have an update immediately after the game. Walston-Hoover Stadium has a maximum capacity of 4,000. Nashua Plainfield recorded 11 first downs but did not get its initial first down until the offense's final drive of the first half. The Huskies also got five first downs on their lone scoring drive.