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Redhawks march forward after coaching transition

August 24, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

2017 Record: 3-6 (Did not make Playoffs)

Head Coach: Tom McDermott. Assistant Coaches: Craig Greiner, Jack Halupnick, Brent Billerbeck, Dalton Hulme, Dan Schmitt. Managers: Hope Brubaker, Hailey Stover, Chloe Feisel, Hailey Larsen.

After a sudden April announcement that Coach Austin Pink was taking a job at the new Liberty High School, North Tama administration quickly explored options for a new football coach for the upcoming 2018 offseason. The school could offer a PE and coaching position to anyone qualified and meet their criteria. With the search turning up little results, North Tama turned to 2017 Iowa Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer Tom McDermott to take the reins of a program he'd been serving as an assistant for several years.

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"The school had offered the position to somebody and during the interview process he took another teaching job to remain at his present school," McDermott said. "I wasn't looking for the job, but I am glad I'm doing it."

McDermott had coached the North Tama Redhawks to a 87-48 record from 1973-1987 and defensive coordinator during the school's 2010 championship run as part of his 21 years assistant coaching. He had returned to coaching under Pink for the past two years, including last year as the team struggled from the start.

"We had a fairly small senior class last season, so underclassman dominated our team," McDermott said. "We seemed to have key injuries and breakdowns at key times, so we are really focusing this season on if things start to go wrong we have to keep our heads up, be positive, remain confident and never let a penalty or bad play overcome us."

The Redhawks return 18 letterwinners, 12 starters and a host of All-District players on both sides of the ball. On offense, quarterbacks Hale Hulme and Skylar will run the North Tama offense that will rely heavily on the run game as they continue to develop their receiving under McDermott's system. Both Hulme (580 yards total passing in 2017) and Staker (901 yards total passing in 2017) will see time at quarterback or elsewhere on the field as receivers.

"We will be more of a running team than we've been the last couple of years," McDermott said. "We do have some good receivers and two quarterbacks that throw well, but our overall strength and best bet is in our running game. Tyler Morrison is All-District coming back for his senior year, Hale and Skylar are good runners. We have decent size in our line. We've told these guys several of them have been playing since freshman year and took your poundings from juniors and seniors. Now, it's kinda payback time for them as juniors and seniors themselves."

Morrison has been a starter at running back for the Redhawks for three years, accumulating 347 yards on the ground on 88 rushing attempts and eight touchdowns. Behind him were Hulme with 269 yards on 65 carries, Noah Bond with 158 yards on 42 carries and Staker with 64 yards on 77 carries. Meanwhile, the Redhawks return their top three receivers in Morrison with 299 yards on 18 receptions, Bond with 271 yards on 19 receptions and Tate Payne with 260 yards on 17 receptions.

The returning experience also shows in the defense, with Staker led with 45 tackles (27 solo) in 2017, followed Zach Greiner recording 41 total tackles and 2 fumble recoveries and Bond with 40 total tackles. Ryan McLean returns for his junior year after makes going 10/17 on PATs and recording 1,121 yards on kickoffs last season. Staker will punt for the Redhawks while Payne and Hulme will see duties as return men.

"Our strength certainly lies in experience this season," McDermott said. "I've told these guys I love their attitude and I love our senior leadership. I'm happy with how they've bought into what we're doing."

With more experience comes more hunger to improve on last season and make up for recent lackluster seasons. Players and coaches met over the summer to install McDermott's system and hit the weight room. The installs and weight room were well attended over the summer. This was a welcomed change for Hulme as he enters his senior year.

"It felt like everyone wasn't mentally all there or working hard," Hulme said. "This year it's changed place in my mind with people working hard. Lifting in the offseason was big for us with basically everyone there. No one missed install all summer at 6 a.m. in the morning. The system installed this year is far more simple and not hard for any of our guys to learn."

Even entering fall camp, McDermott describes his players as having the right attitude about the season, showing more confidence and being on time. This was evident to senior Zade Podhajsky also entering his senior year.

"When I was a freshman here, we went 0-9 and you could tell the energy just wasn't there," Podhajsky said. "People didn't like going to practice, but now it's fun and everyone is supporting each other. We get after it for ourselves and our teammates. It makes football fun again."

"I'm an old-timer that emphasizes being sharp, disciplined in everything we do," McDermott said. "That means we start on time, end on time, do things together as a team, and the kids have bought into it."

North Tama will face a tough schedule ahead of them headlined by 2017 State runner-up Hudson. Programs such as East Buchanan and Wapsie Valley are also ranked by publications across the State, and McDermott feels Grundy Center could also be strong contender.

"We feel our schedule is good for us with some non-district games we can be competitive before getting to our district," McDermott said.

But the overall message of the season isn't just about yards, touchdowns or tackles, but coming out better than they were before the season.

"I told everyone during our first meeting that our number one goal they all improve as a person and as a football player," McDermott said. "Our second major goal is to win the first game of the season, which would be the 500th win in Redhawk football history. That's a milestone we've focused on. We are emphasizing one game at a time starting from last season, rather than looking at the big picture. That will be extremely important for us as we tell them to have fun, but work hard."

The Redhawks will seek their 500th program win this season as they travel to New Sharon on Friday, August 24 to take on the North Mahaska Warhawks. North Tama will return home the following Friday as they host Lisbon.



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