by Steve Peterson
Akron-Westfield Head Football Coach Eric Walkingstick believes the 2012 squad will be considered in the highest regard in A-W gridiron lore.
“I think this team will have a long legacy. But we’re not rebuilding; we’re reloading. We had a great turnout in the weight room this past week,” said the second-year coach of the Westerners.
A-W completed a 10-2 season with a 42-28 loss in the championship game team to Hinton in the quarterfinals about one week to the hour when the coach reflected.
“It has been a rough week. You want to be able to let it go but it is hard. It’s great for the District, though, to have a team in the title game and to think we played them twice and beat them once,” said Walkingstick, adding the large group of seniors, 11 of them, are destined for great things themselves.
“They’re great leaders. They have done everything I have asked and more since the summer camp at the University of Sioux Falls when I challenged them,” said Walkingstick.
Taylor James rushed for 1,849 yards in 281 attempts and scored 25 touchdowns via the run. Senior quarterback Cory Eskra ran 160 times for 590 yards with five touchdowns. Chet Willer rushed 17 times for 81 total yards. Devon Myers rushed 12 times for 52 yards.
Chance Hoffman, who was hurt in the second half with an ankle injury in the last game, had 52 receptions of Eskra passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns. Willer had 18 catches for 118 yards and three touchdowns.
Eskra passed 216 times, completing 121 for 1,602 yards, for 2,192 total yards.
James had 1,890 total yards.
James accounted for 220 points, 150 via the rush; 24 on catches; six on field goals; 16 on Point After Touchdowns; six on two-point conversions and 18 on returns, so much so no one kicked the ball to him the second half of the year.
Walkingstick praised the efforts of his staff and the community in general for their support. Assistants are Kent Johnson, Jeff Wolthuizen and Ryan Bergman with volunteers Brent James, Dan Tindall and Nathan Harris.
“The neat thing about the staff is they care not just for the x’s and o’s (strategy) but about the players on and off the field,” said Walkingstick.
“I’m sure all of them will go on and do miraculous things. But in life it also gives you life lessons and that builds your character,” said Walkingstick.
“Akron has a lot going for it,” said the coach, saying his family has fit right in in a short time. His son, Hunter, was a ball boy this year.
“It’s somewhat busier in a different way after the season. It’s still 5:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. but that is what is needed to be successful,” said Walkingstick.
The Westerners’ numbers look better with larger middle school classes coming up, he said, adding he will always make the season a fun one for the team.
“If a sport isn’t fun, why do it?” said Walkingstick.
Last Friday’s game was Walkingstick’s eighth time coaching in a quarterfinal round in a 20-year career.
The coach followed Hinton’s 28-21 win over Logan-Magnolia in the semifinals from Cedar Falls on Nov. 9 with some mixed emotions knowing how close the Westerners came to being there but also knowing in the long run this will be thought of as a legacy team. A-W was hopeful the Blackhawks, the third seed in the district’s four playoff teams, could beat Wapsie Valley of Fairbank on Nov. 15 for the Class 1A title at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls at 1:36 p.m. Hinton will be after its first school football championship.
Other statistical highlights:
Senior Daniel Beitelspacher led with 126 total tackles for the defense.
Eskra and John Wolthuizen, a senior, had six fumble recoveries each. Willer had four.
The season had an eight-game winning streak and two post-season victories.
A-W’s season scores were: • A-W 27, Unity Christian 12;
• A-W 29, Gehlen Catholic 9;
• A-W 38, Woodbury Central 35;
• A-W 41, Hinton 35;
• A-W 46, West Sioux 12;
• A-W 54, Sibley-Ocheyedan 18;
• A-W 34, Alta-Aurelia 18;
• A-W 41, Lawton-Bronson 32;
• West Lyon 35, A-W 0.
• A-W 19, Prairie Valley, Gowrie 7;
• A-W 28, West Hancock 16; and
• Hinton 42, A-W 28.
Statistics for the
quarterfinal round game:
Eskra was 10-for-21 passing for 129 yards, 12.9 yards per completion, with 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown; James was 0-for-1.
Eskra rushed for 94 yards in 30 carries; James had 114 yards in 16 carries.
Hoffman caught three passes for 68 yards, 22.7 yards per catch, with a 51-yard touchdown; Kevin Carlson had one catch for 19 yards; James had three catches for 26 yards, 8.7 yards per catch; Nathan Sanchez had one catch for eight yards and Willer had two catches for eight yards, average 4 yards per catch.
James accounted for 28 points in his final game with 18 via the rush, three on a field goal, one via a PAT.
Against Hinton in the quarterfinal round Beitelspacher had 12 total tackles; James had nine; Kyle Schroeder had eight; Cole Oltmanns added six.
James had four punts for 120 yards, 30 yards per punt with a long of 36.