Listed at a playing weight of 200 pounds, you would think it might be tough for Bettendorf sophomore Diego Cortes to line up at defensive end.
But what Cortes might lack in bulk, he more than makes up for in speed and toughness. He put that on display Friday night in the Bulldogs' homecoming game against Burlington.
In just a half of play, Cortes recorded six tackles, two for loss, and a quarterback pressure as he and the rest of Bettendorf's defense dominated Burlington in a 48-13 win in a Class 4A district contest.
Bettendorf limited Burlington to just 48 total yards, all rushing, in the first half as the Bulldogs led 35-0 at the break. Cortes showed off his skill at his left defensive end position, getting around some of Burlington's bigger offensive linemen to cause havoc.
But Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said Cortes has been doing that all season for the fifth-ranked team in Class 4A.
"We normally don't like to take sophomore kids up, but he's just tough and he plays hard every down," Wiley said. "We identified him as one of our tougher kids early on and made the decision to bring him up in the preseason. He's actually playing a position he's never played before, he used to be a linebacker. We moved him to defensive end and he's really embraced that."
Cortes is only one of three sophomores on the varsity along with lineman Blake DeLeon and receiver Tynan Numkena. But Bulldogs junior linebacker Kane Schmidt says Cortes doesn't carry himself like a 10th-grader on the football field.
"He has made really big improvements this year and he is just a great player to have up there (on the defensive line)," Schmidt said. "He is going against varsity guys and he uses his speed and his hands really well to get into position."
Cortes said the biggest key for him was just getting stronger between his freshman and sophomore years.
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"The weight room, all the work in there," Cortes said. "I try and go into the game with the mindset that you have to put more work in than the other team. If you want to be the best, you have to put the work in."
Cortes added that being a wrestler has helped him use his hands along with his footwork to get off blocks quicker.
"We practice drills every day using my hands to get past (defenders). Griffin Liddle (lineman) has been a big help to me. He pushes me and I push him," Cortes said.
Besides Cortes, Schmidt had a fairly strong game himself with a team-leading eight tackles before he departed after two quarters. He added the defense wanted to look strong before a showdown at Cedar Rapids Kennedy next Friday that will likely decide the district championship.
"We really wanted to focus on making sure our reads were perfect and really playing disciplined because Kennedy is next week," Schmidt said. "We did not want to give Kennedy anything on tape that would make us look sloppy. Coach Wiley, this week, really wanted us focused on this game and not everything going on at school and I think we did that."
Joe Byrne took care of the offense for the hosts, rushing for one short touchdown and throwing for three more TDs in the first half. He hit tight end Noah Abbott with 11-yard and 43-yard touchdown passes. Byrne also found Numkena for a 12-yard TD pass for the Bulldogs (5-1 overall, 2-0 district).
Harrison Bey-Buie, who ran for 176 yards on 10 carries, had TD runs of 11 and 74 yards in the win. Austin Barta had a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the hosts.
Bryant Williams had a 46-touchdown run and Trey King-Tempest Jr. had an 11-yard TD run for Burlington (1-5, 0-2) in the second half.