South Tama County and Grinnell football teams renewed their rivalry one more time on June 15.
For many of the players, it was one final time to put on football pads and play alongside teammates once again. In conjunction with Alumni Football USA, the two teams participated in a fundraiser game on STC's field.
"It was probably the most fun thing I've done in a long time," said Nate Van Dyke, 2003 STC graduate. "It was fun to revisit some of those friendships you have and also play with the older alums that you looked up to. It kind of had the same feel as a high school game. We came out of the blockhouse here and everybody was in the stands cheering."
Representatives from Alumni Football USA talk to the South Tama and Grinnell football teams at the end of the June 15 alumni game at STC. Awards were distributed to both teams. Grinnell won the game 26-16 after outscoring STC 18-0 in the second half. South Tama did have more than double the number of players as its rival and it raised more than $4,000 for the school.
The primary function of the game was to raise money for both schools. 50 percent of all tickets sold before June 15 went directly to each school. STC also raised money with a concession stand.
South Tama's bleachers were nearly full, while Grinnell's side was about half full. STC raised $4,470 for its school district, which was much higher than Grinnell's $975.
"That's number one," said JJ Novotny, 2001 STC graduate and event organizer. "The big reason is a fundraiser for the school. There's nothing better than raising money and playing football. That's cool. A whole community was involved and it was great.
South Tama roster
Earl Miller Jr.
Nate Van Dyke
"I thought South Tama would sell about that many pre-sale tickets," he added. "I never thought Grinnell would have as small of a crowd as they did. I figured they would have a lot more than they had, especially being a rivalry game."
Of course for the players on the field, it was one more time to put on the pads, strap their helmet on and relive some glory days.
"Some of those guys you haven't seen for a long time, but you know you shared some really good battles with them on the field," Van Dyke said. "You just have those memories and talk about what everybody is doing now. It was fun getting to know some of those older guys and getting to play with them."
South Tama's roster was the size of a normal football team. The Trojans had 52 players in uniform on the sideline for the contest. Their rivals from Grinnell had only 30 players on its team.
It was South Tama that struck first in the game. Grinnell threw a lateral screen pass that was dropped by the receiver. Since it went backward, STC's Corey Supianoski, 2002 graduate, scooped up the ball and ran more than 50 yards for the touchdown. On the two-point conversion, Brandon Rutledge, 1995 graduate, carried the ball into the end zone, giving STC an 8-0 lead with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
Grinnell responded with a quick scoring drive. The Tigers marched quickly down the field with short passes. They scored a touchdown on a one-yard run by Steven Boggess, 2004 graduate. The conversion pass from Christopher Dougherty, 2001 graduate, was broken up by South Tama. The Trojans led 8-6 early in the second quarter.
After a three-and-out by South Tama, Grinnell began driving once again. Then came the highlight of the day. Rutledge intercepted a Grinnell pass on the goalline, ran 15 yards behind blockers down the sideline before breaking outside and running down the field. In the wake of the return, there were players laying on the ground all over the field. Thanks to a few late blocks and speed, Rutledge turned the interception into a 100-yard touchdown return, although he may have run more than 150 yards on the play.
The Trojans scored on the conversion. Nate Roberts, 1995 graduate, threw a pass that was tipped and fell into the hands of Ben Gates, 2001 graduate. The Trojans led 16-6 and it stayed that way through the half.
Grinnell dominated the second half as it was able to move the ball up and down the field. The Tigers scored on their opening drive of the second half with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Dougherty to Jordan Ely, 2012 graduate. After another STC three-and-out, Grinnell scored again on a pass from Dougherty to Joseph Dougherty, 2001 graduate. That gave Grinnell an 18-16 lead.
"It was a really good defensive game," Novotny said. "We led until about mid third quarter. Everybody played in the game. It was a great opportunity and a lot of fun. It was fun playing with guys from the past and guys that we never got to play with before. A lot of brothers and cousins had never played with each other until that night. It was really cool to see some of those Grinnell guys that I knew but hadn't seen for a long time."
Following a South Tama punt, Grinnell threw a reverse pass for a 50-yard touchdown. Ely threw the ball to a wide open Nathan Criswell. After the conversion, Grinnell led 26-16.
Both teams committed several turnovers during the final quarter. South Tama tried to air it out, but threw interceptions. Grinnell fumbled the ball and threw an interception, but neither team scored. Grinnell won the game 26-16.
"For me personally, it was pretty cool to get that fumble recovery," Novotny said. "Then hitting the Dougherty brother again was pretty cool. It was also cool being coached by some legendary coaches. Playing on Tama's field was great again."
Novotny and Van Dyke both agreed it was strange to put on football pads once again. They both said they were in shape, but having pads on was a completely different feeling. Both players enjoyed the game, but Van Dyke would have enjoyed it more if he was 100 percent healthy.
"I was in pretty good shape, but I pulled my hamstring a week before so I wasn't 100 percent. I couldn't sprint the whole game. I am kind of disappointed in that and I would like to see how I could have played with my speed out there. I used to be a running back in high school a lot. With my hamstring, I didn't do that as much. I probably blocked more on Saturday night than I ever did in my career. I enjoyed it and I took pride in driving a guy back five yards and putting him on his back."
South Tama's current head football coach Jay Hoskey, who was an assistant coach under former head coach Jim Plantz, was on the sidelines for the contest. He admitted to doing very little coaching, but he enjoyed the time spent with former students and players.
"It was good to be around those guys and see them again," Hoskey said. "Some of them were really good people when they were young and they're really grown up to be super men and responsible contributors to society. I just enjoyed seeing some of those guys again. Everybody could tell that age had an effect, but some of those guys were in really good shape."
This year's game was the first-ever alumni contest between the two schools. However, they hope to play again next summer.
"Everybody was talking it up on Facebook during the week," Van Dyke said. "And everybody is still talking about it. I know a lot of people want to do it. I would play next week if I could."
Novotny agreed, saying South Tama might add a second game, if possible.
"We'd like to play at Grinnell next year," Novotny said. "We'd like to also pick up a second game at home so we can have a home game. A lot of them wished we had a second game. The opponent is yet to be determined for the second game, but it would be another chance to raise money for the school."