Friday Night Lights Returns: Redhawks poised to compete under new head coach

North Tama football returning letterwinners including (front row, l-r) Gavin Rausch, Chaz Hall, Mason Hosek, and Tyler Popelka; and (back row, l-r) Jared Dvorak, Ryan Hosek, Josh Dostal, and Kolt Knaack. PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER

TRAER – North Tama football looks to get back to its hard-nosed roots this fall.

Under new head coach Andrew Knaack, the Redhawks are looking for 100 percent effort with around 30 kids suiting up on Friday nights this fall.

“The kids we roll out every Friday night are gonna be ready to go,” Knaack said. “Next man up. We’re not going to be the flashiest team, but we’re gonna be physical.”

Knaack was promoted to head coach after serving as an assistant for the last two years under Taylor Wurth, who resigned at the end of the last school year.

The Redhawks went 2-7 last season with a pass-heavy spread offense – only three teams in Class A threw the ball more than North Tama’s 264 attempts last year.

Expect that to change this fall.

“We’re gonna get back to where we want to run the ball, be hard-nosed, make good tackles,” Knaack said. “It’s like people say: North Tama football. … It’s going to be a completely different look for us on Friday night. And the guys have absorbed it, learned it, and they want to improve. It’s promising to see us going in the right direction, taking the time and effort to learn.”

The junior class is expected to take a step forward this fall. Kolt Knaack, Andrew’s son, remains under center as quarterback. Gavin Rausch, who led the team with 36 catches last season, moves to tailback. Josh Dostal, who caught 33 catches for 351 yards last season, also returns.

Blocking for them will be Ryan Hosek, who will be a senior leader snapping the ball from center this fall. Hosek also had seven tackles for loss on defense last year.

“He’s been on the line for three years and he knows this is his last go-round,” Andrew Knaack said.

North Tama has a high percentage of returning varsity experience, although for many it was trial by fire last season.

“A lot of them came in playing varsity for the first time and the speed of the game was a lot faster than what they had been used to,” Knaack said. “But these guys have grown and now they’re the leaders and going out expecting to make the big plays, the game-changing plays and be leaders on the field.”

One of North Tama’s main rivals, Grundy Center, exits to Class 1A for the next two seasons, but Class A District 3 still has a lot of familiar faces, including AGWSR, BCLUW and Wapsie Valley, while also adding some tough teams from the north like South Winneshiek, Nashua-Plainfield and North Butler.

If the Redhawks’ roster can avoid the injury bug, however, Knaack likes North Tama’s chances. North Tama gets a tough non-district draw in Week 1 at Hudson.

“We can compete with the varsity experience we have back,” Knaack said. “Wapsie’s going to be tough to compete with, but by the time we play them [in Week 5], we should be ready to go.”

“We understand as a staff that if we go out and work on improving and bringing it on Friday night, we can compete with anybody. You won’t know for sure until that first game, but we’re optimistic and thinking that we can surprise a lot of people.”