A battle-tested group of seniors helped the Colo-NESCO football team overcome the loss of some talented playmakers off last year’s squad to achieve its third-straight winning season in 2017.

The Royals had to replace all-state quarterback/tailback Garret Tiarks and leading receiver Wayne Beard off last year’s 5-4 team. But with the return of a strong group of seniors, Colo-NESCO bettered its record in 2017, finishing 6-3 overall and taking third in 8-man District 5 with a 5-2 record.

“We returned eight seniors and all of our linemen and a tight end,” Colo-NESCO head football coach Josh Nessa said. “The experience in the offensive line really helped us. We also had a lot of depth compared to other teams on our schedule. We relied on many players on defense.”

The Royals were a little shaky to start the season. They were overpowered by AGWSR in their opener by a 49-20 margin.

But in the second week of the season Colo-NESCO made big strides, crushing Coon Rapids-Bayard by a 76-44 margin.

District play opened with Colo-NESCO trouncing Meskwaki by an 82-30 margin at Tama. The following week the Royals steamrolled a Melcher-Dallas team that finished just one spot behind them in the district with an 80-18 triumph at Colo.

On Sept. 22, the Royals routed Twin Cedars, 67-34, at Bussey. The next week Colo-NESCO stomped Seymour/Moulton-Udell by a 67-6 score.

The five-game winning streak set up a showdown with HLV for the top spot in the district. The Royals had no answers for the Warriors, losing 63-14 at Victor.

The next week Colo-NESCO hosted Moravia in another critical battle. The winner of this game took over second place in the district, and thus was in great position to qualify for the playoffs.

Colo-NESCO put up a tremendous showing against Moravia. But in the end, the Mohawks had just a little bit more, handing the Royals a heartbreaking 30-22 setback.

The season wrapped up with Colo-NESCO traveling to Thornburg and holding off a feisty Tri-County squad, 34-28. Moravia won its final game of the season over Melcher-Dallas to leave Colo-NESCO just short of earning its second playoff appearance in three years.

“We had another successful season with a great group of guys,” Nessa said. “We missed the playoffs to the district runner-up by eight points. We learned a lot as a team and had multiple players play different positions as people got injured or due to illnesses.”

Nessa said he is extremely grateful for his senior class that finished 25-15.

“This group of seniors are the most successful 8-man team in school history and possibly has had the most wins of any class in Colo-Nesco history,” Nessa said. “They are a great group of young men and they will be missed next year.”

He added that he hopes what the seniors and the rest of the team learned doing the season carries with them beyond the football field.

“I hope that they learned that it is far more important to be a part of something bigger than yourself than to be self-centered and self-serving,” Nessa said. “That (they learned) you can accomplish way more as a team than an individual and that they continue to live their lives ‘The Royal Way.’”

Colo-NESCO’s senior class included Philip Bower, Garrett Packer, Bryce Niemeyer, Mason Lytle, Sean Cutler, Connor Clark, Jacob Clatt and Ricky Griffin.

On offense Bower, Packer, Lytle and Cutler were big playmakers and Niemeyer, Clark and Clatt helped out on the line. The Royals matched last year’s scoring average of 51.3 points and put up 360.8 yards per game, topping last year’s 333.4 average.

Bower and Packer both rushed for 1,113 yards and threw for 102.

Bower ran for 21 touchdowns and averaged 8.0 yards per carry. He threw for one touchdown and had three interceptions, completed 9 of 17 passes and also caught nine balls for 101 yards and two scores.

Packer averaged 10.0 yards per carry and ran in 20 scores. He completed 4 of 7 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions and seven passes for 71 yards and two scores.

Lytle ran for 393 yards and five touchdowns on 42 carries. He caught eight passes for 93 yards.

Cutler completed 22 of 41 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He also ran for 49 yards and one score and caught two passes for 21 yards.

Clatt made one catch for 30 yards and Niemeyer ran the ball once for 10 yards.

Sophomore Francis Bower ran for 371 yards and three touchdowns on an impressive average of 13.7 yards per carry, and he caught two passes for 20 yards and one touchdown.

Sophomore Brighton Clatt ran for 100 yards and one touchdown, completed 1 of 2 passes for two yards and a touchdown, and caught two balls for 31 yards and a score.

Junior Ethan Wilson ran the ball six times for 81 yards and three touchdowns and added three catches for 32 yards and a score. Junior Kelly Gray ran for 27 yards and caught two passes for nine yards, sophomore Alex Grover ran for 16 yards, freshman Trevor Burg 10 yards and sophomore Jack McKinney five yards.

On defense, Colo-NESCO gave up 313 yards per game and 33 points per game. The Royals allowed 195 rushing and 118 passing yards per contest and they racked up 16.5 sacks and 11 interceptions and fumble recoveries apiece.

Packer had 63 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks and one fumble recovery. Niemeyer produced 60 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception and one fumble recovery.

Francis Bower came up with 43 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Philip Bower tallied 33.5 tackles and three interceptions and Lytle delivered 28.5 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Wilson, Gray and Clark finished with with respective tackle totals of 28, 22 and 21. Wilson also had one fumble recovery and interception apiece, Gray three interceptions and Clark four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one fumble recovery.

Grover ended up with 18.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack and Jacob Clatt 17.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery. Adam Texeira came up with 15.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks and Cutler chipped in 9.5 tackles and one fumble recovery.

Jack McKinney intercepted one pass and Brighton Clatt, Martin Nichols, Griffin and Parker Ryan each recovered a fumble for Colo-NESCO.

On special teams Jacob Clatt averaged 39 yards on six punts, Philip Bower 26 yards on six punts and Brighton Clatt 18 yards on one punt. McKinney made five extra points and Jacob Clatt one.

Philip Bower returned 19 kickoffs for an average of 19 yards with two touchdowns and he also averaged 16.6 yards on five punt returns.

The returning Colo-NESCO players have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of such a productive senior class. But the Royals will have some talented players returning to build around in 2018.

“We had a couple of young players really step it up this year and this really helped us,” Nessa said. “Hopefully these young players will continue to improve and work hard in the off season.”