TRAER - The way Dennis Athletic Field is situated, in a shallow valley surrounded by trees, it's difficult for the sun to reach it, even for an early fall football contest.
That seems just about appropriate though, as the team that calls it home pretty much stamps out any daylight for opposing offenses.
And as it happens, North Tama may just be a bit in the dark about itself, too.
T-R PHOTO BY TRAVIS HINES
North Tama’s Jacob Watson reels in a 35-yard touchdown pass late in the first half in front of East Buchanan defender Michael Ellis, left, in the Class A No. 3 Redhawks’ 42-0 victory Friday night at Dennis Athletic Field in Traer.
The Redhawks used their many weapons in the passing game and their as-always suffocating defense to score a 42-0 victory over an overmatched East Buchanan squad Friday night in the Class A District 4 opener.
The defending state champions, currently ranked third in the class, have now shut out all three of their opponents to start the season for the third consecutive year and have outscored challengers by a combined 147-0.
"We take on every week with the same mentality that (teams) are coming in, they're going to challenge us, they're going to play hard," said senior Nick Whannel, who rushed four times for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Still, with the trio of drubbings on the resume, the Redhawks (3-0, 1-0) haven't been tested and are still trying to work out the kinks, as evidenced by their eight penalties on the night.
"We've got a lot of things to improve on. We're definitely not where we want to be in a lot of different things," said North Tama head coach Brent Thoren. "But, as far as where we're at in the season right now, I'm not going to complain about it, but I think we're starting to get some things figured out about who goes to what position and who's playing really well right now."
North Tama certainly looked all of its formidable self in the early goings.
Quarterback Jacob Wrage hooked up with Mitchell Boerm for a 35-yard touchdown pass on North Tama's third play from scrimmage, and then Wrage's 47-yard toss to Dalton Hulme on the next possession set up Whannel's 2-yard plunge into the end zone.
A 50-yard burst past the defense and over the goal-line by Hulme on North Tama's next drive put the Redhawks up 20-0 before the horn sounded to end the first quarter.
Wrage finished the night 9-of-13 passing for 185 yards and two touchdowns without an interception while showing plenty of poise in the pocket, often resisting the temptation to take off and run in favor of letting his receivers find clearance.
"He's really patient and he trusts his linemen a lot," said Thoren of Wrage. "He's just really calm back there and he does a good job for us."
Wrage benefits from a talented receiving corps, with three players notching catches on the night.
"I think that's something we can use to our advantage in how we have so many skill people and get them the ball in space," said Thoren. "They can really do some good things with it, all over the board."
Boerm finished with three catches for 60 yards and Hulme had his one catch for 47, but it was Jacob Watson that emerged as Wrage's go-to guy with five grabs for 92 yards and a late first-half touchdown as the Redhawks performed a pitch-perfect 2-minute drill.
Wrage was 5-for-5 on the drive, hitting all three receivers as North Tama marched 74 yards down the field in 1:47 and 15 seconds before halftime.
"East Buchanan was playing a lot of man-to-man looks so we were going to make some plays with that, let our guys go against their guys and see what happens," said Thoren.
The Buccaneers (0-3) managed 106 yards rushing on the night, receiving 40 from Vincent Mossman and 39 from Brent Barth, but needed 39 attempts to get there, posting a 2.71 yards-per-carry average.
Wrage added a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the frame's highlight came when junior lineman Nolan Hefty picked up a North Tama fumble and sprinted 25 yards into the end zone to cap the Redhawks' scoring for the night.
"I was very proud of my little Nolan," laughed Whannel, who wears jerseys numbered 2 and 62 as he moves from the backfield to the line.
"We've seen in practice, (Hefty) will play some scout every once in awhile, and he's scored before so it was no surpise that when he got that ball that he was gone."
There were few surprises this night for the Redhawks, who travel to play Colo-NESCO next week, and there haven't been yet this season.
North Tama's three opponents this year, however, (GMG, HLV and East Buchanan) are all still looking for their first wins of the season, sporting an 0-10 combined record.
"I think we've got a good idea of what we want to do, but I think we've got some things we've got to figure out as far as personnel," said Thoren. "There's still a little bit of unsettledness in there, but I guess that we've got a lot of opporuntites to keep kids pushing forward."