CAMANCHE, Iowa — Over the past few years, there's been an uptick in Camanche boys athletics.
The basketball team enjoyed a state tournament run two seasons ago and the baseball team reached a substate final this season.
It appears that success has spread to the football team, off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2001.
"Lately, it's just a winning tradition here. We just want to win, we've got guys that love to compete, and that's what we like to do," said Caleb Delzell, an all-state basketball player and senior for the Indians. "It's just the chemistry between everyone. It's a small school, a small town, and people see when (the basketball team) went to state, how many people came and watched, everyone was all-stars around town there for a second.
"It's just fun to win."
Delzell had a big hand in Camanche's 19-14 win over Bellevue last week, intercepting a pass as well as catching a touchdown for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Beating a team like Bellevue, which had gone 28-4 over the past three seasons, was a big step for the Indians.
"What I really liked about last week is we won and it was a flat-out dogfight. Defensively, both teams going at it, and we made more plays in the end than they did," head coach Dustin Coit said. "I even told our team after the game, in past years I've been here, the Camanche team probably doesn't win that game. We found a way to win by making plays, turning them over and we're confident right now."
It's a good start for Coit, now in his second year as head coach after serving as an assistant for five seasons. He led the Indians to a 4-5 season last year, their best finish since 2011.
Participation in offseason weight training has increased, as has excitement around the program. It's growth not unlike that of the basketball and baseball teams.
"Especially at a small school, when one team has success, then maybe you start getting some guys out that weren't playing football that were a part of those teams," Coit said. "Any time you can win at a varsity sport, that helps another varsity sport. They know how to win, and that translates to what we've been doing so far."
Defense is leading the way on the football field.
Through two games, the Indians have allowed 21 points, sixth-best in Class 2A. Camanche has been opportunistic on defense, with five interceptions and six fumble recoveries, both second in 2A.
"We've got some ball hawks that love to gamble, for lack of a better word," junior quarterback and defensive back Jordan Lawrence said. "We've got guys that love to have a nose for the ball and get to the ball."
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Lawrence missed all of last year's basketball season after tearing his ACL in the second to last game of his sophomore football season. So far, he's thrown for 332 yards and five touchdowns and has two interceptions on defense.
"Having all that time off, I came back hungrier, with more of a drive. I'm just so happy to be back playing," Lawrence said. "As one that loves all the sports I play in, I couldn't stand sitting out, it was just horrible for me. ... Now, you can't wait for next week. After every Friday, we can't wait to play the next week."
At some point, the Indians figure to get even more dangerous with the addition of L.J. Henderson. The senior is waiting to be declared eligible after transferring from Clinton, despite moving to Camanche.
Coit said, at the latest, Henderson will be eligible by Week 6 against Louisa-Muscatine, but whenever he can take the field, his impact should be felt after recording 74 tackles and four sacks for the River Kings last year.
"He's a very good football player. We joke as coaches he's the best scout team player we've ever seen," Coit said. "He's just going to add another dimension to our defense, and we'll have more depth when he's available as well."
Now, the Indians have to make sure to maintain their focus with non-district games against North Cedar and Central DeWitt left on their schedule. A 2-0 start is nice, but that won't mean much when they open district play in two weeks against Tipton.
"We need to go out now and prove ourselves against the teams that maybe people are saying we're not going to get," Delzell said. "Those are the games we need to win now."
Ground and pound: One big reason behind Maquoketa's 2-0 start is a dangerous rushing attack, something the Cardinals lacked over the last three years, when Maquoketa was just 2-25.
Maquoketa hadn't had multiple games with a 100-yard rusher since 2015, and even then it only happened twice, Jacob Kloft rushing for 117 early in the season and Justin Snyder rushing for 106 in a playoff game.
Already through two games, the Cardinals have had three 100-yard rushers. Kannon Coakley rushed for 142 yards against Central DeWitt and 128 against Anamosa while Ryne Gruenwald added 111 in the win over Anamosa.
"The offense is really putting in the work and heart to open up the holes for us," Coakley said.
As a result, Maquoketa has already rushed for 569 yards this season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 284.5 yards per game.
That's a marked improvement from the last three seasons, where Maquoketa averaged 845.7 rushing yards per season and just 2.8 yards per carry.