Another year resulted in another slew of bad breaks for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter football team in 2013 as the Raiders narrowly missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
CMB was a blocked extra point away from qualifying for state in 2012. The Raiders defeated Davis County by a 41-35 score in the final game of the season in a game they need to win by seven points to earn the fourth and final playoff spot from Class 2A District 6.
It was the same story again in 2013 as CMB entered a season finale rematch with Davis County needing to win by nine to make the playoffs. The Raiders held a 10-point cushion entering the final five minutes only to let the game slip away in a heartbreaking 33-31 setback to see their playoff dreams crushed for the second year in a row.
"It is hard to look at the overall season and not be a little disappointed," CMB head coach Rob Luther said. "We obviously did not meet expectations. We didn’t make the playoffs, which is a tough pill to swallow when the kids have worked as hard and committed as much as they have. But you just keep teaching through it all and find ways to improve."
CMB finished 4-5 overall this season after going 4-6 a year ago. The Raiders were 2-4 in 2A District 6 after going 3-3 in the district last year.
A tough early slate combined with a key injury to make CMB’s playoff quest an uphill climb.
CMB faced eventual state qualifiers Gilbert and Bondurant-Farrar at home in two of its first three games. The Raiders fell to Gilbert by a 44-27 score in their opener and after claiming a 42-7 win over Roland-Story in week two they were handed a 49-27 loss by Bondurant-Farrar to begin 2A District 6 play.
Prairie City-Monroe – another playoff qualifier – handed CMB a 35-27 loss in week three. But the Raiders began to turn things around after that.
CMB demolished eventual playoff qualifier Nevada by a 49-20 score in Nevada on Sept. 27 and the next week the Raiders routed I-35 by a 56-20 score. CMB’s hot streak was briefly halted on Oct. 11 as an Albia squad that eventually won 2A District 6 and reached the state semifinals handed the Raiders a 42-6 defeat in Albia.
The Raiders came back to hand Clarke a 58-7 drubbing in their final home game to set up the confrontation with Davis County.
"Two years straight of having to win week nine by a certain number of points was tough," Luther said. "I felt we were definitely the better team than Davis County, but we had to play different to win by nine."
A big reason CMB was unable to get over the hump was the loss of Zach Huffaker – the leading returning rusher for CMB and a big receiving weapon out of the backfield. Huffaker suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against PCM.
"Losing our all-district running back was a bigger blow than many thought," Luther said. "On both sides of the ball we missed Huffaker. But the way the schedule was set up was our toughest challenge. Playing Gilbert and Bondurant-Farrar in two of the first three games put a lot of doubt in our heads."
Luther said he was proud of his team for overcoming its slow start to get in position to make the playoffs in the final game of the season.
"The biggest highlight was our will to never give up," Luther said. "We played the top teams on our schedule close for a half or three quarters, but could not finish the deal. We had a tough schedule – tougher than anticipated – but in the end I loved our fight and drive all through the season."
On offense CMB averaged 35.9 points and 387.3 yards per game. The Raiders displayed great balance in its fast-paced spread offense, picking up an average of 197.7 yards through the air and 189.6 on the ground.
Senior quarterback Zach Samson and receivers Bryce Kemp and Austin Moorman were the driving forces behind CMB’s success on offense.
Samson was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in 2A. He completed 112 of 188 passes (59.6 percent) for 1,718 yards and 18 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and also led CMB in rushing with 844 yards and 13 touchdowns on 134 carries.
Kemp was CMB’s best big play weapon in his junior season. He caught 28 passes for 604 yards – a 21.6-yard average – and 11 touchdowns and also ran five times for 90 yards and one score.
Moorman was the most consistent receiving threat for CMB in his senior year. Moorman made 46 receptions for 680 yards and four touchdowns and added 60 yards rushing on six carries.
Sophomores Brady Stover and Hunter Gunderson were the other receiving threats for CMB. Stover caught 21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns and Gunderson had six grabs for 88 yards.
With Huffaker out of commission Gabe Schabillion took over as the top Raider running back. Schabillion picked up 385 yards and seven touchdowns on 73 carries as a senior.
Huffaker ran for 230 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries and he also caught 10 passes for 162 yards and a score before his injury.
A big reason CMB had success moving the ball throughout the season was the play of its improved offensive line. Junior Patrick Girard was a unanimous first-team all-district pick on the offensive line, Cory Morris – also a junior – made the all-district second team, senior Dawson Dahlke was honorable mention and junior Andrew Lindamoen also was a valuable contributor.
The CMB defense yielded 28.6 points and 340.9 yards per game. The Raiders forced 15 turnovers, including 10 fumble recoveries.
"We made some gains defensively, though wee need to be more consistent there," Luther said.
Junior linebacker Clayton Weltha led CMB in tackles with 85. Senior Logan Cory added 66 stops, including two tackles for loss, along with two fumble recoveries.
Kemp recorded 63 tackles and returned both of his fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Junior linebacker Nick Littell made 59 stops, five tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Seniors Austin O’Connor and Jordan Coughenour compiled 47 and 31 tackles respectively, Moorman tallied 37 and Stover delivered 32. O’Connor also had four tackles for loss, Coughenour recovered two fumbles, Moorman finished with five stops behind the line, two interceptions and a fumble recovery and Stover picked off one pass.
Samson tacked on 29 tackles, two sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries on the defensive line as the 2A District 6 co-Defensive Player of the Year recipient. Gunderson also had 29 stops, Charles Robertson picked up 20 tackles, Girard 19, John Engle 17, Chance Titus 14 and Trevor Ehlers 13.
In special teams play Joey Nissen went 39 of 43 on extra points and he also made two field goals with a long of 42 yards. Stover had nine punts for a 31.4-yard average and Kemp returned two punts for an average of 24 yards.
Luther said it will be hard to overcome the loss of the departing senior class next season. Samson, Moorman, Huffaker, Schabillion, O’Connor, Cory, Dahlke and the rest of the senior class leave some big shoes to fill.
"We have great kids at CMB," Luther said. "They are fun to be around and do things the right way. We have a talented group of freshmen right now who I hope saw in our leaders the right way to prepare and respect the game."
But with the talent he has coming back, the success of the freshman class and the possibility of CMB dropping down to 1A the Raiders have plenty of reasons to be excited about 2014.
"We had a freshman group that went 7-1, we return two all-state juniors in Kemp and Girard and our leading tackler in Weltha and we have one of the top kickers in the area in Nissen," Luther said. "Lindamoen, Littell, Gunderson and Stover are all key players with valuable playing time who return. We will need a number of sophomores to take on key roles, we have to find a quarterback to step in and run our offense and we have to be more physical at the point of attack. Hopefully we will have as good of leadership next year as we did this one. We know we have to get better in some key areas, but we have the right kids to do that right now."