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Home » Roland-Story football program continued move forward in 2022 – Ames Tribune

Roland-Story football program continued move forward in 2022 – Ames Tribune

The Roland-Story football team kept things headed in the right direction with another trip to the Class 2A playoffs in 2022.
The Norsemen finished the season at 4-5 overall and they took third in 2A District 7 with a 3-2 record. That was an improvement from last year’s 3-6 campaign and it landed them in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“We made improvements in the scoring margin of nearly every game we played, both wins and losses,” Roland-Story head coach Matt Finn said. “While we understand the goal of playing on Friday night is winning, we have made significant competitive strides as a program. We played South Hamilton to an overtime game in a matchup that has been very one-sided of late. We started district play 3-0, and we improved our overall win-loss record from a year ago.”
Roland-Story opened the season with a 34-28 overtime loss to South Hamilton at home. The Norsemen came back with a decisive 47-7 victory at East Marshall in Week 2, then gave top-10 3A team Nevada a run for its money in the first half before running out of gas in a 49-26 loss at Story City.
Roland-Story bounced back from the Nevada loss to win its first three games in 2A District 7. The Norsemen blanked Albia during homecoming week, 21-0, won at Chariton in a 24-14 battle and outlasted Iowa Falls-Alden in a 42-29 slugfest at Iowa Falls.
A West Marshall team ranked in the 2A top five ended Roland-Story’s winning streak by handing the Norsemen a 41-7 setback Oct. 7 in Story City. Roland-Story ended the regular season the following week with a 28-13 loss at traditional power Prairie City-Monroe.
Even with the two losses to West Marshall and PCM the Norsemen still ended up third in the district to secure a playoff spot. They went on the road to Clarinda in the first round and suffered a 56-27 loss to end the season.
“We were much more competitive nearly every week,” Finn said. “I don’t think anyone in our program is satisfied, but we made progress. Our offseason process should shed light on some things other than the obvious on where we can improve.”
Finn said the big keys to his team’s growth from a year ago was its improvement in special teams and the running game.
Sam Knoll was an excellent kicker, making 20 of 26 extra points and his only field-goal attempt from 20 yards out. Luke Patton provided strong punting, averaging 35 yards on 29 punts and the Norsemen kick return group returned 39 kickoffs for an 18.7-yard average, including a 92-yard return for a touchdown by Jonovan Wilkinson.
The Norse averaged 181.2 yards per game on the ground compared to just 61.4 a year ago when they relied heavily on the record-breaking pass-catch combo of quarterback Quin Ante and receiver Will Bunn.
Wilkinson led a balanced rushing attack with 770 yards and seven touchdowns on 7.9 yards per carry. Quarterback Hesston Johnson ran for 178 yards and six scores, Jake Berggren picked up 167 yards and one touchdown, Dillon Lettow added 165 yards, Nick Butler ran for 94 yards and one score, Gavin Carpenter 75 yards, Knoll 59 plus two touchdowns and Jon Martin 56 plus one touchdown.
Patton chipped in 43 yards and three touchdowns and Cody Long also had a touchdown on the ground.
Defensively, Roland-Story did a great job causing cause by forcing 18 turnovers.
Junior defensive back Boaz Clark had five interceptions, Kale Lande picked off two passes and Johnson, Carpenter, Patton, Lettow, Riley Larson and Carter Flattebo each had one interception. Johnson also recovered two fumbles and Lettow, Hesston McIlrath and Jaxson Kadolph recovered one fumble apiece.
“Special teams execution was a huge area of growth for us this year, as was the offensive running game,” Finn said. “We nearly tripled our rushing output from 2021 and defensively we were also on the right side of the turnover margin on the year.”
The Roland-Story offense averaged 25.9 points and 308.9 yards per game.
Johnson completed 66 of 153 passes for 1,108 yards and nine touchdowns at quarterback. Lettow was the top receiver with 10 catches for 284 yards and five scores.
“Senior wide receiver Dillon Lettow had a fantastic season for us and contributed on both sides of the ball,” Finn said. “Not a huge surprise for us because of his skills, but he provided a lot of sparks for us this year.”
Flattebo made 23 catches for 269 yards, Lande 12 for 280 and three touchdowns, Patton 11 for 143 and one score and Wilkinson nine for 100.
The Roland-Story defense gave up 28.7 points per game. Sophomore linebacker Charlie Watts was the breakout performer for the Norsemen with 81.5 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and half a sack.
“Charlie Watts didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere this year — we knew he could be pretty good, but he became a force for us on defense. His name was called constantly on Friday nights. We’re really excited about him.”
Johnson made 43.5 tackles, Patton 41 tackles and 1.5 sacks, Carpenter 39.5 stops, Lande 38 and Thomas Tjaden 24 plus eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Christian Chelsvig chipped in 23.5 tackles, Flattebo and Lettow 21 apiece, Aaron Peyton 19.5 plus three sacks, McIlrath 13.5, Clark 12.5, Roland Yates 10 plus two sacks and Kadolph 9.5 plus 1.5 sacks.
Next season Finn wants Roland-Story to do a better job of stopping the run and being more efficient on third downs offensively. The Norsemen will have a whole new schedule with district realignment taking place this year, but the Norsemen coach feels with the players he has returning Roland-Story can keep progressing and contend for a winning season in 2023.
“We’ve got some veterans to replace at key spots, but we are bringing a lot of guys back in trenches and we’re bringing back a lot of offensive production,” Finn said. “We were pretty young this year, so a lot of our guys got valuable experience. We’ll look a little different. I’m not sure we’ll have 6-5, 6-3 skill guys all over the place like we’ve had, but we’ve got some savvy guys coming back. The anticipation of new districts and schedules is always exciting. We are going to prepare to be our best for whatever competition comes our way.”

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