Gladbrook-Reinbeck Wins First Football Championship
From disappointment comes celebration.
A year after coming so close to winning the Class-A state football championship, Gladbrook-Reinbeck didn’t spoil a second chance to lift the hardware.
Senior tailback Eric Stoakes rushed for a title game record 282 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Rebels to a 52-20 victory over Akron-Westfield at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Thursday (Nov. 19, 2015).
The football title is a first for Gladbrook-Reinbeck (12-2), which fell to Logan-Magnolia, 28-24, in the 2014 finale.
“It’s pretty special,” Stoakes said, referring to the championship. “We came back and finished what we started four years ago. It feels great.”
Stoakes set the tone for Gladbrook-Reinbeck early, running 80 yards for the game’s opening score on the Rebels’ second play from scrimmage. It was one of four first-quarter touchdowns for the Rebels, who owned a 28-0 halftime lead following a scoreless second quarter.
“We definitely could not have drawn up a better first quarter,” Gladbrook-Reinbeck Head Coach John Olson said. “There were big plays on offense and defensively with the coverage that we’re running, when things click like that it’s a pretty big deal.”
Senior quarterback Jake Schuman had touchdowns runs of 32- and 45-yards, and also threw a 14-yard scoring pass to junior Erik Knaack in the opening 12 minutes. Schuman finished the day 8-of-13 for 87 yards, while Knaack was one of three receivers to catch two passes for Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
“It thought this was going to be a hard-fought battle, and that 28-0 lead shocked me,” Knaack said. “Our defense is what really worked out for us. We, obviously, stopped them the whole time in the first quarter. Everything was going great for us.”
Akron-Westfield (11-2) picked up the tempo in the third quarter, when the Westerners scored all 20 of their points. They started the second half with back-to-back successful onside kicks, and eventually narrowed the deficit to 28-12.
Quarterback Cal Eskra threw a pair of touchdown passes for Akron-Westfield – an 8-yard toss to Dylan Irizarry and a 29-yarder to Austin Allard – and ran three-yards for another score later in the quarter. He ended the game 17-of-42 for 191 yards and three interceptions, and added another 64 yards on 23 carries.
Eskra, a junior, finished the season with 3,877 yards passing, the third-highest total for an 11-player quarterback in Iowa. His 43 touchdown passes this season rank as the fourth-best total in state history.
Akron-Westfield tailback Caleb Colt caught seven of Eskra’s passes for 54 yards, matching a Class-A championship reception record that’s now held jointly by Fredericksburg’s Jason Steege (2001) and Hinton’s Dalton Becker (2012).
Stoakes scored Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s only third-quarter touchdown on a 52-yard rush, and added TD runs of 53- and 21-yards in the fourth quarter to seal the championship. The four touchdown runs by Stoakes also matched a championship game record.
“I’m so excited for these kids,” said Olson, who just completed his 10th season coaching the Rebels. “I’m so excited for our communities, our fans, our teachers, and our administration. Those are the people I’m truly, truly excited for because it’s (the title) something that’s going to go on the wall and it’s something you’re never going to take back.”
The Rebels won the championship with a group of 11 seniors that included members of the basketball team that won a state title in March. Gladbrook-Reinbeck also qualified for the state soccer tournament last spring, as well as the state baseball tournament this past summer.