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Algona motivated on the gridiron

Unbeaten Bulldogs ranked third in 2A

Photo by Troy Banning, for The Messenger Algona's Wyatt Wegener scores against Webster City last Friday.

ALGONA — A five-game improvement in the win column gave the Algona football team a special starting point at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

It also helped to fuel their collective fire heading into this year, as the Bulldogs are currently ranked third in Class 2A and a perfect 7-0.

Algona finished last year 8-1 in the regular season and earned a convincing victory over Crestwood in the playoffs. However, the sting of a 24-21 setback to Waukon in the quarterfinals motivated the team during the winter, spring and summer months.

Led by senior all-staters Wyatt Wegener and Cole Lewis, the Bulldogs have scored over 34 points in each game this year and have allowed just 22 total in their last three.

“The success has been great to have and it’s great to know that the work we’ve been putting in is helping us win football games,” Lewis said. “With that being said, though, we did get beat last year in the playoffs and that loss has motivated me much more this season.”

Lewis is the anchor to a defense surrendering just 14.5 points per game. The 215-pound lineman has a team-high 46.5 tackles, including three solo sacks and five solo stops for loss.

As a junior, Lewis had 72 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks in earning first team all-state status. He has found himself being looked upon as a leader to the younger Algona players this season.

“Taking on a leadership role for our team has been a big focus for me,” Lewis said. “Going into the year, I wasn’t the most vocal leader. I just tried to lead by doing the right things all the time, but as the season has gone on, I’ve definitely become more vocal and I’ve earned my teammates trust and respect.”

Lewis added that the entire Bulldog senior class, is making sure each and every practice and game is taken with the utmost respect.

“All of the seniors have taken on great leadership roles and are constantly pushing the underclassmen to be better,” Lewis said. “We never take it easy on the underclassmen. We want to give them the best challenge we can to help them improve.

“Most of our varsity level players are seniors, but as the year has gone on, we have been getting some great help from the underclassmen and will definitely need them the rest of the way.”

With Lewis and company keeping most opponents off the scoreboard, Wegener and the many Algona skill position players have been doing their part.

Wegener, a first team all-stater last year after recording 1,771 yards of total offense and 25 touchdowns, is well on track to surpass those numbers. Through seven games, he has 891 yards rushing, 526 yards receiving and scored 20 times.

“The success from last year really motivated us all on the team to be better,” Wegener said. “We are trying to prove something to ourselves by getting better and better each and every day. We kind of have a sour taste left in our mouths from the last game last year.”

Algona is averaging just over 43 points per game, including a season-high of 61. Wegener has accounted for 134 of those points thanks to a pair of punt returns.

“We have been staying focused by really working our tail off during practice,” Wegener said. “Coach (Andy) Jacobson has talked a lot this year about ‘so what, next play.’ We’ve been using that by thinking it doesn’t matter what happened the last game or who scored, we just have to play our game.”

Sophomore Tyler Manske has stepped in at quarterback for the graduated Matt Grein. Manske is completing 63 percent of his passes for 940 yards with 10 touchdowns. He has also rushed for three scores.

Garrett Schmidt and Sammonte Bawden offer different styles in the backfield next to Wegener. Schmidt has 401 yards and six touchdowns, with Bawden adding 388 and four scores.

Elliott Berkland is averaging over 14 yards per touch, with the likes of Gavin Meints, James Wartick and Andrew Hamilton helping stop opposing offenses on a weekly basis.

Algona heads to 10th-ranked Spirit Lake (5-2, 2-1) this Friday before concluding the season back here vs. Southeast Valley (4-3, 1-2).