Spartan football hosts Columbus Community on Friday

Grundy Center's Tiernan Vokes makes his third touchdown reception of the first half in a 49-0 Spartan victory over Belle Plaine at Spartan Stadium on Friday. (Jake Ryder photo)
Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

GRUNDY CENTER – Explosive offensive strikes allowed Grundy Center football to settle in against Belle Plaine, uncorking a 49-0 win to start the Class A playoffs at Spartan Stadium.

The Spartans are assured at least one more home game next week, Oct. 28, against Columbus Community. The Wildcats from Columbus Junction are 8-1 and have the highest-scoring offense in Class A at 52.4 points per game. The winner will face either East Buchanan or Alburnett in the quarterfinals.

“The game plan and our coaches are the biggest piece of this win tonight,” said Grundy Center junior Clay Saak. “They set us up for success and we did what we were told and got the job done.”

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The Plainsmen, no strangers to Grundy Center in their fifth meeting in the last five years, fell behind 13-0 near the end of the first quarter but sustained a near-eight minute drive in the middle of the first half, getting the running game going and making enough Spartans miss.

“It was more self-inflicted wounds than anything,” Grundy Center head coach Travis Zajac said.

But on a fourth-down run play, Trent Cakerice bottled up the Belle Plaine runner for a turnover on downs. On the next play, Colin Gordon fired off a quick pass to Tiernan Vokes, and the 6-foot-4 sophomore took off, churning through a quartet of defenders and sprinting to the endzone for a 79-yard pass play and a 20-0 lead after Gordon’s point-after kick.

“Ran a simple fly route, made a few guys miss and just ran fast, I guess,” Vokes said of the highlight-reel play.

That got the snowball rolling downhill - the Spartans stopped Belle Plaine again on the next drive in Plainsmen territory, and Gordon hit Vokes once more for a 7-yard strike. Belle Plaine’s next drive ended in disaster, opting for a quick kick on fourth down that went off another Plainsmen, setting up another short field for the Spartans. That resulted in another one-play drive for the Spartans as Gordon eluded pressure in the pocket and threw to a wide-open Vokes and a first-half hat trick for the young receiver.

Every time Vokes touched the ball on Friday, he scored, catching three balls for 98 yards. Tate Jirovsky added a touchdown on two catches for 30 yards. 

“He’s a dynamic athlete,” Zajac said. “A big kid for a sophomore. And we’ve just got a lot of ability on the perimeter right now. We feel comfortable playing six different kids at receiver and every game it seems like it’s been someone different stepping up. Ben Wegmann earlier this season, then it was Tate Jirovsky and now Tiernan’s coming into his own. Austin Betts is back, Tanner Laube’s given us some plays, Dylan Knaack in the jet sweep and pass game - we’re just blessed to have a lot of kids that can play there and do a good job of playing unselfish football.”

Gordon wheeled out to hit Wegmann for the two-point to get the continuous clock going for the second half. Justin Knaack added his second rushing touchdown of the night in the second half on a 71-yard scamper and Clay Saak cracked his way into the end zone for the final score of the Spartan romp.

Knaack carried seven times for 78 yards and two scores and Saak had five totes for 43 yards.

“Our O-line is great this year,” Saak said. “We have three guys that run that running back spot and we’re all doing great, but our O-line is opening up that stuff for our running backs and I give them all the props.”

And the Spartan defense was no slouch, either, posting its fourth shutout of the year and intercepting Belle Plaine three times - one each for Colin Gordon, Brody Zinkula and Eli Wegmann.

“They weren’t going to make a living on it but we knew they’d have to throw it at some point,” Zajac said. “And we were able to identify those formations and motions. That’s a credit to Chris Conger, and the defensive guys, Nick Betts, Jeff Dole, Gary Knaack. They had those kids ready. It was a great defensive performance.”

Zinkula made six total tackles on Friday, including three solo. Saak made two tackles for a loss and Cakerice, Patrick Brown III and Cooper Hoy all had one tackle for loss each.

At least one more home game awaits next Friday, and with the high-powered Columbus offense coming to town, Zajac expects a tight battle to try and get to the quarterfinals.

“We want to be healthy this time of year, health is paramount for any team right now,” Zajac said. “But we’ve got to be able to turn the page quickly. Whoever we end up with in round two is going to be a very good football team. We’re going to be in a physical contest the likes we haven’t seen in a while. We’ve got to be ready for that.”


Grundy Center vs. Columbus Community

Kickoff: 7 p.m., Oct. 28

History: First-ever meeting between the two teams.

Grundy Center’s resume: Beat 1A No. 10 Dike-New Hartford, 17-14, on Sept. 2; Beat Wapsie Valley 20-7 on Sept. 9; Beat Nashua-Plainfield 35-8 on Sept. 30.

Columbus Community’s resume: Lost to 1A No. 8 Alburnett 32-31 on Oct. 14; Beat Lisbon 49-20 on Sept. 16; Beat Wapello 39-19 on Sept. 9.

Wildcats notes: Columbus Community is in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997 with a 62-14 win over Maquoketa Valley last Friday. Kaden Amigon rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns in the win as the Wildcats accumulated 561 rushing yards as a team. Columbus leads Class A in total touchdowns (69), rushing touchdowns (61), all-purpose yards (4,923), and rushing yards (3,739). Amigon is fourth in Class A with 1,744 rushing yards so far this season. The Wildcats also have the 12th-best scoring defense in Class A at 15.6 points per game. The Wildcats’ strength of schedule, according to, is rated 56th out of 56 teams in Class A.

BCMoore computer model prediction: Grundy Center by 16


Rushing–Justin Knaack 7-78, 2 TD; Clay Saak 5-43, TD; Brody Zinkula 3-15; Judd Jirovsky 1-4; Grant Newton 3-3; Aiden Betts 3-0; Colin Gordon 2-(-1).

Passing–Gordon 8-9-0, 177 yards, 4 TD; Jirovsky 2-2-0, 37 yards.

Receiving–Tiernan Vokes 3-98, 3 TD; Ben Wegmann 2-44; Tate Jirovsky 2-30, TD; Cooper Hoy 1-22; Jacob Hoy 1-15; Tanner Laube 1-5.

Tackles (solo-total)–Clay Saak 3-5.5; Trent Cakerice 1-5.5; Justin Knaack 1-4; Ben Wegmann 2-3.5; Patrick Brown III 1-3; Tanner Laube 2-2.5; Stuart Whitehill 0-2.5; Cooper Hoy 2-2.5; Ryker Thoren 0-2; Klayton Freed 0-2; Dylan Knaack 1-1.5; Ethan Aswegan 1-1.5; Eli Wegmann 0-1; Sullivan Dirks 0-1; Colin Gordon 1-1; Grant Newton 0-1; Tiernan Vokes 0-1; Austin Betts 0-0.5; Tate Jirovsky 0-0.5; Harry Brekunitch 0-0.5; Isaiah Burt 0-0.5; Keon VanHorn 0-0.5; Parker Kremanek 0-0.5. TFL–Saak 2, Cakerice, Brown III, C. Hoy 1. INT–E. Wegmann, Gordon, Zinkula.



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