by Steve Peterson
Akron-Westfield Head Football Coach Eric Walkingstick was named a Class A Regional Coach of the Year by the Iowa Football Coaches Association at its meeting April 5 – 6 in Ames.
A-W had a 10-2 record, an eight-game winning streak and made the Class A quarterfinals in an outstanding 2012 season. A-W was 6-1 in District No. 1 play for runner-up honors behind West Lyon.
“It was a neat surprise. It’s a testament to the kids, coaches and the community and all the hard work and dedication they put into it,” said Walkingstick. “We had some great senior leadership last year, and they did all that I asked them to do.”
Walkingstick shared the IFCA award with Matt Straight of Logan-Magnolia, who lost to Hinton in the semifinals after A-W fell to the Blackhawks in the quarterfinals.
Walkingstick will be in his third year this fall at A-W after an 8-3 record in 2011 and 10-2 this past season. In addition to coaching, he teaches Physical Education.
“We have a countdown clock going to our next football activity. It (next season) is in the forefront. The attendance at the weight room has been great,” he said, adding the weight room is open for any student’s use.
Kent Johnson, Jeff Wolthuizen and Ryan Bergman are the assistant coaches with volunteers Dan Tindall, Brent James and Nathan Harris and all do a great job, said the boss.
Walkingstick came to A-W after nine years at Nowata, Okla., as defensive coordinator and was head coach at Oologah, Okla. He played football at Haskell Junior College and was Academic All-America in football and track.
Looking back on 2012
The 2012 season started with a 27-12 win against Unity Christian and a 29-9 win against Gehlen Catholic in non-district play. District wins were 38-35 in a thriller over Woodbury Central; 41-35 in a thriller over Hinton; 46-12 against West Sioux; 54-18 over Sibley-Ocheyedan; 34-18 at Alta-Aurelia and 41-32 over Lawton-Bronson. That set up a title match with West Lyon, which won, 35-0.
A-W’s good fortunes continued in a 19-7 first round playoff win over Prairie Valley-Gowrie on Oct. 24, 2012.
Cory Eskra completed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Chance Hoffman for a 7-7 tie. Taylor James scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 27-yard run. Eskra’s second touchdown pass of the night to Hoffman, from 27 yards, accounted for the final score.
The Westerners advanced one more round in the Iowa High School Football playoffs and became quarter finalists with a 28-16 win over West Hancock of Brit.
James had 34 rushes for 131 yards. Eskra was picked as Player of the Game on Oct. 29 as he completed 13-of-23 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another.
After an 8-0 setback, A-W gained an 8-8 tie by halftime with a 77-yard drive ending in an Eskra 23-yard pass to Kevin Carlson for a touchdown. James had a two-point conversion run for an 8-8 tie.
A-W gained its first lead in the third quarter as Eskra found Hoffman open for a 24-yard touchdown pass and James had a Point After Touchdown for a 15-8 A-W lead after three quarters. West Hancock regained a 16-15 lead but A-W marched 72 yards, with 41 of the yards coming on an Eskra to Nathan Sanchez pass. A one-yard touchdown run by James gave A-W the lead back at 21-16.
Cody Bosse led the defense with 11 tackles and great efforts were by Daniel Beitelspacher, Tyler James, Dylan Myers, Sam Mace, John Wolthuizen and Tommy Toben.
Then it was time to face Hinton for a second time this season with a trip to the UNI-Dome in the quarterfinal round on the line. More than 2,000 fans showed up on Nov. 2 and watched.
The Blackhawks took a 27-19 lead at halftime.
Eskra, who had 94 yards rushing, threw a five-yard pass to Hoffman and a James two-yard run after a fumble recovery gave A-W a 13-0 lead early. James added a 50-yard run and a field goal to round out the scoring.
Honors & year end stats
James ended with 1,849 yards rushing in 281 attempts and scored 25 touchdowns via the run. He accounted for 1,890 yards. Eskra ran 160 times for 590 yards with five touchdowns. Chet Willer had 17 rushes for 81 total yards. Myers had 12 rushes for 52 yards.
Hoffman had 52 catches for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns. Willer had 18 catches for 118 yards and three touchdowns.
Eskra completed 121 of 216 passes for 1,602 yards passing and had 2,192 total yards.
James was named District No. 1 Most Valuable Player for offense. He was a standout running back for the Westerners.
A-W’s other All-District First Team selections were senior defensive lineman Chet Willer; senior offensive lineman Joel Schroeder; senior defensive back Cory Eskra; senior linebacker Daniel Beitelspacher; junior defensive lineman Arron Green; and junior wide receiver Chance Hoffman.
Second Team All-District for the Westerners: junior linebacker Cody Bosse; and senior linebacker Cole Oltmanns.
Honorable Mention All-District for the Westerners: junior defensive lineman John Wolthuizen; and senior linebacker Chance Gant.
James and Willer signed national letters of intent to attend Morningside College and play for the Mustangs. Beitelspacher will attend Simpson College.
Congrats, Coach Walkingstick, and all the Westerners for the IFCA honor.