Cool hand Colin

Quarterback Colin Gordon led Grundy Center to back-to-back titles


GRUNDY CENTER — There’s no moment too big for Colin Gordon.

In an exceptional run of success for Grundy Center football, the Spartans’ senior quarterback remained emotionally-centered but confident, guiding his team to a second-consecutive state championship as a multi-tool talent that contributes above and beyond in all three phases for the Spartans and ends his high school career on a team that has now won 26 consecutive games.

Gordon’s excellence has left an impression on Spartans head coach Travis Zajac, who has been at the helm for five seasons, all of which have ended in the UNI-Dome at the state championship game.

“What we asked him to do in 2022 and 2023 is a lot for any kid, and he was an all-state caliber performer in all of those positions,” Zajac said. “Based on all of what was asked of him, I believe he is the best player in the state, regardless of class.”

Colin Gordon is the 2023 Times-Republican Football Player of the Year.

Gordon completed 67 percent of his passes this season for 2,013 yards with 26 touchdowns to five interceptions and rushed for 688 yards and 11 more scores. Defensively, he logged four turnovers for the Spartans, including a 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown. On special teams, he made 57-of-63 point-after attempts, kicked 24 touchbacks on 71 kickoffs and averaged 40 yards per punt. He was named the Class 1A all-state team captain in teams released by the Iowa Football Coaches Association and Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

Prior to the 2022 season, he moved into the quarterback slot in succession of Logan Knaack, the Class A captain on Grundy Center’s state runner-up team that lost in heartbreak to West Hancock in a third-consecutive championship game loss.

“Colin played a lot of football for us as a freshman and sophomore,” Zajac said. “Even if he wasn’t practicing quarterback every day, he was fully engaged in the installs, game plans and film study required of the position. He knew what he was getting into as the starting quarterback, replacing a generational talent like Logan Knaack, and met the challenge head-on.”

Gordon was a first-team all-state quarterback leading the Spartans to a Class A title in 2022 as a junior.

Poetically, the victory was over the West Hancock team that had bested Grundy Center twice in the previous three seasons.

“He was a contributor on those 2020 and 2021 teams and had his heart broken in finishing as state runner-up in those seasons,” Zajac said. “Colin saw first-hand what needed to be done to break through and win those championship games.”

Then, in preparation for his senior year, Gordon and the Spartans were tasked with a feat few schools have accomplished — moving up a class and trying to win it all again.

“We knew the competition would be better,” Gordon said, “and I think this really motivated us to continue to work in the offseason as well as have a heightened focus coming into the year.”

The Spartans survived an opening-week test with Dike-New Hartford, 7-6, with a blocked extra point the difference in the contest. From there, the Spartans settled in with lopsided victories leading to a Sept. 21 clash at Waterloo Columbus.

It was the toughest test yet for the Spartans, needing two defensive touchdowns — including Gordon’s long fumble return for a score — to stave off the Sailors, 21-14.

“That was our defining win of the year,” Gordon said. “It defined what our team was and proved that we would find a way to win every game. We struggled tremendously on offense in that game. … But it was a game that proved we would not be denied.”

Gordon’s playmaking ability on defense was on full display.

“These last two seasons, we’ve asked him as cornerback to take away our opponent’s best wide receiver,” Zajac said. “Against run-heavy offenses, we asked him to be more of a linebacker. And he was outstanding at both.”

The win also showcased one of Gordon’s intangibles — an ability to take the emotion out of the game, regardless of situation.

“Colin is one of the most even-keel kids I’ve ever coached,” Zajac said. “When things weren’t going well for us, he still found ways to make plays for us and put us in position to win those games. When things were going well, he was still the same kid — excited for his teammates, happy to play well, and an excellent competitor. His teammates knew what they were going to get every single week from Colin Gordon.”

Gordon said he draws inspiration from other confident quarterbacks.

“Watching players like Tom Brady display absolute confidence in any situation he was in has shown me the proper way to act in these high-pressure situations,” Gordon said. “This, as well as knowing that I have people who will support me no matter how I do on the field, is what helps me to stay calm in these high-pressure situations.”

The Spartans, with newfound determination, worked harder than ever to turn back the rest of their district and rolled through the postseason, including a dominant run in their final three victories, winning the state quarterfinals, semifinals and finals by a combined score of 122-7.

Grundy Center’s success also ran parallel to one of the only other teams in Iowa that can boast as much success as the Spartans in the Van Meter Bulldogs.

Van Meter recently duplicated Grundy Center’s feat of moving up a class to win a state title, doing so in Class 2A this fall for Van Meter’s third-consecutive state title. And the Bulldogs did it with Ben Gordon, Colin’s cousin, running the ball for over 2,100 yards and 29 touchdowns.

“What they’ve been able to do is very impressive,” Colin said. “We talk a little bit during the season but it’s more for bragging rights during the holidays. When we were younger, we used to talk about what it would be like to play each other in the Dome. Unfortunately, with the reclassing we never did get a chance to play against each other. These past couple of years have been really special for our family and in particular our grandparents who have got to watch a ton of extra football.

“I know Van Meter is pretty good. … But I think we would have beaten them this year if they stayed in Class 1A.”

Life after high school is a little cloudy for Colin — college is a certainty, but whether he’ll be playing football remains a question mark: “My plans are very undecided at this point.”

Zajac believes Gordon could translate any of his skills at his various positions in his Spartan career to the next level.

“His play, practice habits, and other factors like excellent grades, attendance and participation in community service will make him an instant impact addition to any college football program,” Zajac said.

No matter what comes next, what Gordon has established as a Grundy Center Spartan will live on for years to come.

“We have had some outstanding football players in my tenure here,” Zajac said. “Colin has to be in the conversation as the best, … one of the best players to ever wear a Spartan uniform. His legacy is secure and serves as motivation to our returning players about what it takes to win it all. Tireless work ethic, care for teammates, and doing everything the best you can are what Colin leaves behind for all future Grundy Center football players and teams.”

2023 Times-Republican All-Area Football Team

Player of the Year — Colin Gordon, sr., Grundy Center

Co-Coaches of the Year — John Olson, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, and Travis Zajac, Grundy Center


Quarterback — Isaac Clark, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Kolt Knaack, jr., North Tama; Slate Witte, sr., GMG.

Running back — Ben Gonzalez, jr., West Marshall; Justin Knaack, sr., Grundy Center; Tate Riang, sr., Marshalltown.

Wide Receiver/Tight End — Hudson Clark, so., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Treshaun Brooks, sr., Marshalltown; Josh Dostal, jr., North Tama; Cael Keller, sr., BCLUW; Tiernan Vokes, jr., Grundy Center; Jabari Woodbury, sr., GMG.

Offensive Line — Jace Aneweer, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Harry Brekunitch, sr., Grundy Center; Michael Boyd, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Emmitt Petermeier, jr., BCLUW; Ryker Thoren, jr., Grundy Center

Defensive Line — Lincoln Barker, jr., Marshalltown; Trent Cakerice, sr., Grundy Center; Alex Paxson, sr., BCLUW; Hunter Roberts, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Ryder Ross, sr., Grundy Center; Drew Eilers, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

Linebacker — Gavin Bridgewater, sr., South Tama; Dillon McMorran, sr., West Marshall; Davis Ragland, jr., Marshalltown; Gavin Rausch, jr., North Tama; Austin Vaverka, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Drew Wheater, jr., East Marshall; Brody Zinkula, jr., Grundy Center.

Defensive Back — Austin Gehring, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Tate Jirovsky, sr., Grundy Center; Andrew Tollefson, sr., West Marshall.

Kicker — Luis Monge Jr., jr. Marshalltown.

Punter — Beckham DeSotel, fr., West Marshall.

Kick/Punt Returner — Kinnick Geers, so., West Marshall; Treyvon Herron, fr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck.


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