Young Royals post winning record in 2016

Joe Randleman, Sports Writer
Senior Parker Eley caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns to help the Colo-Nesco football team post a winning 5-4 record in 2016.

The Colo-Nesco football team overcame inexperience and a tough start to finish with a winning record in 2016.

With the loss of a talented senior class off last season’s 9-3 team that reached the 8-man state quarterfinals, Colo-Nesco looked to be in rebuilding mode this season. It didn’t help that the Royals had to face two ranked teams in their out-of-conference schedule to start the season.

Colo-Nesco struggled in those two opening games versus AGWSR and Coon Rapids-Bayard. But the Royals got it together when 8-man District 5 play began.

At the conclusion of district play, Colo-Nesco had produced a 5-4 overall record and ended up 5-2 in the district to place to place third behind Twin Cedars and HLV.

“Overall, I would say that our season was quite successful, considering the experience we lost,” Colo-Nesco head football coach Josh Nessa said. “We also had a difficult schedule. Three out of four of our losses came from opponents who went on to the playoffs (Twin Cedars, AGWSR, and HLV). Our other loss came from Coon Rapids-Bayard, who was 8-1, and for all intents and purposes should have been in the playoffs, but lost out in the tiebreaker.”

Colo-Nesco finished just one spot shy of qualifying for the playoffs. Had the playoff field not been reduced from 32 to 16 teams, the Royals would have returned to the postseason.

The Royals’ season opened with a 55-28 loss at AGWSR. Coon Rapids-Bayard handed Colo-Nesco another tough road loss, 59-34, the following week.

District play opened with Colo-Nesco mowing down both Meskwaki (62-16) and Melcher Dallas (76-28). The Royals then suffered a 36-22 home loss to a Twin Cedars team that went on to win the 8-man District 5 title.

On Sept. 30, Colo-Nesco hammered Seymour on the road, 76-28. That set up a showdown with HLV in a battle for second place in the district and a state-qualifying spot.

Colo-Nesco was dealt a tough 49-38 loss by HLV as a Royal rally came up short.

“Our team never gave up,” Nessa said. “They had great attitudes and never let circumstances dictate our motivation. Several times this season, we started our games poorly and battled back. Against HLV we gave up three touchdowns in the first quarter, towards the beginning of the third quarter we took the lead and battled the rest of the game.”

With its playoff dreams dashed by HLV, the Royals could’ve coasted in the final two weeks, but instead they responded by playing their best football of the season.

On Oct. 14, Colo-Nesco outlasted a Moravia team nipping on its heels for third in the district by a 54-42 score at Moravia. Then the Royals concluded the season with a convincing 76-0 drubbing of Tri-County.

“I would say that, in addition to senior night (versus Tri-County), another highlight was the Moravia game,” Nessa said. “I felt that we were pretty evenly matched with Moravia and played them very well. It was truly a team effort.”

For the season Colo-Nesco averaged 51.3 points and 333.4 yards per game. The Royals did most of their damage on the ground, averaging 255.8 rushing yards per game.

Garret Tiarks concluded a fabulous Colo-Nesco career by topping 4,500 total offensive yards and 500 career points.

Moving to quarterback from tailback this season, Tiarks totaled 1,993 yards rushing and passing.

Tiarks ran for 1,412 yards and 29 touchdowns on an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He completed 32 of 71 passes for 581 yards and 10 touchdowns with nine interceptions, and finished with 226 total points.

Garrett Packer, Wayne Beard and Philip Bower were the other top weapons for Colo-Nesco on offense.

Packer ran for 372 yards and nine touchdowns on 7.2 yards per carry and Beard ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 6.2 yards per attempt. Beard was also the leading Royal receiver with eight receptions for 189 yards and four touchdowns and Packer made three grabs for 67 yards and one score.

Bower finished with 109 yards and three touchdowns rushing on 4.0 yards per carry. He also caught eight passes for 110 yards and two scores and threw for 95 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Jacob Clatt caught four passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns and senior Parker Eley made six grabs for 89 yards and two scores for the Royals. Mason Lytle caught four passes for 28 yards and one touchdown and Connor Clark made one reception for 17 yards.

Brighton Clatt ran for 55 yards and one touchdown, Kelly Gray ran for 45 yards and Francis Bower picked up 44 yards and one touchdown rushing. Francis Bower also caught three passes for 42 yards and Brighton Clatt made one grab for five yards.

Sean Cutler ran for 31 yards and one touchdown and he also completed two passes for 23 yards. Dakota Wier added 33 yards rushing on one carry.

Bryce Niemeyer, Jacob Clatt, Clark, Adam Texeira and Colin Hall did most of the work on the offensive line for Colo-Nesco.

On defense Colo-Nesco gave up 33 points and 327 yards per game. The Royals forced 30 turnovers with 15 interceptions and fumble recoveries apiece and they also totaled 18 sacks on the season.

Tiarks had 76.5 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns at linebacker. Packer finished with 70 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack.

Niemeyer came up with 58 tackles, 5.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries on the defensive line. Lytle delivered 40 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery and Wier added 39.5 tackles, three sacks, four fumble recoveries, one interception and one defensive touchdown.

Beard had 32.5 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. Philip Bower had 28 tackles, five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.

Jacob Clatt had 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks, Francis Bower 21 tackles, Gray 17 tackles and Cutler 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception. Texeira produced 11 tackles and 0.5 sacks, Zack McWherter and Alex Grover 10.5 tackles apiece, Eley 6.5 tackles and Clark 0.5 sacks.

On special teams, Bower averaged 17.9 yards on 22 kick returns with one touchdown, Beard averaged 23.9 yards on seven kickoff returns with one touchdown and Gray averaged 26 yards on three returns. Bower also returned three punts for an average of 20.3 yards.

Tiarks averaged 30.6 yards on 21 punts and Gray punted six times for a 31.8-yard average.

Colo-Nesco only loses four seniors after this season. But they were all valuable play makers in Tiarks, Beard, Wier and Eley.

“One of our biggest highlights was our final game (on) senior night,” Nessa said. “This was a time to recognize the leadership of a small, but great group of guys. Our seniors this year took on some responsibilities they had been anticipating for four years. With the exception of Garret Tiarks, our seniors Parker Eley, Wayne Beard, and Dakota Weir, saw little playing time on varsity in past seasons. Our seniors really stepped up and showed great, positive leadership.”

It will be tough to replace those departing seniors, but with so many contributors coming back, Colo-Nesco figures to be a force in 8-man District 5 next season.

“Experience will actually be something we bring back,” Nessa said. “We expect nine juniors to return as seniors next year. We will obviously need to keep improving, keep our guys competing in other sports and working hard in the weight room. Things continue to look bright for Colo-Nesco football.”