Inexperience hurt the Colo-Nesco football team in 2013 as the Royals were inconsistent on both sides of the ball in their second season of 8-man play.
Colo-Nesco was coming off a 7-4 campaign that included advancing to the second round of the playoffs in its first season of 8-man competition. But with the loss of top playmakers Brandyn Niemeyer and Adam Lytle, along with several other key departures, the Royals had a lot of big shoes to fill this fall.
The end result saw a young Colo-Nesco team struggle against tough competition, finishing 2-7 overall and 2-5 in 8-man District 6.
"We did not have the season we were hoping for," Colo-Nesco head coach Josh Nessa said. "We struggled as a team with young players and one of our key players – senior Alex Griffin – suffered an injury that kept him out of most of the last half of the season. We only had three returning full-time starters - plus two players who split time - on offense and three returning starters on defense. As coaches, we struggled finding a system that would work for our players."
A tough early slate didn’t make things any easier.
The Royals took on 5-4 Melcher-Dallas and 6-3 Northeast Hamilton as their non-district foes in week zero and week three respectively. In between those games, Colo-Nesco went up against a top-five Adair-Casey team that won 8-man District 6 and ended up 12-1.
Colo-Nesco hung tough with Melcher-Dallas before suffering a 34-26 loss. The Royals were overpowered by both Adair-Casey and Northeast Hamilton, losing by respective scores of 69-6 and 44-0.
The following two weeks saw Colo-Nesco rebound nicely from the poor start to post both of its victories. The Royals crushed Ankeny Christian Academy by a 60-6 score and outlasted East Union by a 30-20 margin in a pair of 8-man District 6 games at home.
But just when it looked as if the Royals turned the tide, they traveled to Lamoni on Sept. 27 and were handed a lopsided 68-12 setback. Colo-Nesco never recovered from that, losing 46-18 at home to Mormon Trail, 51-18 at Murray and 54-37 at home to Grandview Park Baptist to close out the season.
"The wins against Ankeny Christian Academy and East Union, and scoring three touchdowns against a tough Murray team were big highlights for us," Nessa said.
For the season Colo-Nesco averaged 23 points and 232.2 yards per game. The Royals did most of their damage on the ground, with an average of 201.3 yards per game.
Senior Taylor Hill was the main catalyst for the Royal offense. Manning the quarterback position, Hill ran for 1,206 yards and 14 touchdowns on 224 carries and he completed 23 of 67 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
"Another highlight was Taylor Hill combining for over 1,450 yards rushing and passing," Nessa said.
Sophomore Grant Tiarks, senior Blake Stevens and Griffin each ran for three touchdowns on the season. Tiarks picked up 178 yards on 32 carries, Stevens had 162 yards on 26 attempts and Griffin finished with 118 yards on 36 carries.
Freshman Garret Tiarks chipped in 95 yards and one touchdown on just five carries. Clayton Bryan ran for 69 yards and one score, Evan Webb picked up 24 yards on the ground and back-up quarterback Brady Stoeffler ran for 22 yards and one touchdown.
Stoeffler also completed 1 of 6 passes for 17 yards and sophomore Dacian Wilson was 1 of 2 through the air for 10 yards.
Webb was the top Colo-Nesco receiver as he had six catches for 92 yards. Bryan made four grabs for 42 yards, Zach Jamison had two catches for 28 yards and one touchdown, Griffin made five catches for 25 yards, Grant Tiarks had one grab for 23 yards and Christian Reischauer hauled in two passes for 23 yards.
Tanner Clatt made one 11-yard reception, Stoeffler had one 8-yard grab, Stevens caught a 7-yard touchdown pass and Garret Tiarks finished with one catch for two yards.
On defense Colo-Nesco surrendered 43.6 points and 334.4 yards per game. The Royals tallied 13 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries and five interceptions.
Wilson led Colo-Nesco with 57 tackles, Bryan had 56 and Casy Angell and Grant Tiarks tacked on 52 apiece. Wilson also had two sacks and three fumble recoveries, Angell recorded four sacks and one fumble recovery and Tiarks ended up with five tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Webb chipped in 47 tackles, Griffin made 33 stops, Isaiah Texeria totaled 32 and Michael Starling ended up with 28. Webb also recovered one fumble, Griffin had six stops behind the line and a fumble recovery and Starling totaled seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
Blake Stevens chipped in 22 tackles, Garret Tiarks totaled 20, Noah Gibbons finished with 17, Dustin Curran tallied 16 and Peyton Larson finished with 12 as the other Royals to reach double figures in tackles. Stevens and Garret each recovered one fumble, Gibbons intercepted three passes and returned one for a touchdown and Curran had three sacks.
Hill picked up two interceptions – returning one for a touchdown – and Reischauer recovered one fumble for Colo-Nesco.
In special teams play Griffin picked up seven successful two-point conversions, Hill had two and Bryan added one. Clatt added one successful extra-point kick.
Colo-Nesco split its punting duties among Clatt, Reischauer and Angell. Clatt had 18 punts for a 32.7 average, Reischauer averaged 32.2 yards on 15 punts and Angell punted 12 times for a 30.1-yard average.
Stevens was the top return man for the Royals, averaging 25.1 yards on 18 kickoffs.
Next season Colo-Nesco will again have to replace a lot of production from its departing senior class.
"Our seniors were a really good group of young men," Nessa said. "We had team awards that went to several of our seniors: Taylor Hill (Royal Way Leadership Award), Evan Webb (Royal Way Optimizing Opportunities Award), Alex Griffin (Royal Way Respect and Relationships Award) and Zach Jamison (Royal Way Responsibility Award)."
Hill was also a first-team all-district pick, as was fellow senior Casy Angell. Webb made the second team, Griffin was honorable mention, Jamison was Academic All-District and Nessa also credited Stevens for his play on special teams.
But even with those losses the Royal coach is optimistic about a more successful campaign in 2014.
"We hope to improve our record and be much more competitive," Nessa said. "It will be difficult to replace our seniors, but our younger players will have much more experience going into next season than our players had starting this season. If we work hard in the off-season and do things the Royal way good things are bound to happen."