COUNCIL BLUFFS — For three straight weeks, Iowa Western has held down the No. 3 spot in the NJCAA rankings.
While the Reivers are excited to be one spot away from a shot to play for a national championship, there also can be some danger in that. Coach Scott Strohmeier said it can be detrimental if you’re spending too much time and energy waiting for someone else to lose.
“That’s the stress point, I guess,” he said. “You’ve got to take care of your business. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter what happens. After we lost, we don’t control it anymore. We only control what we do, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to go and we don’t have a slip-up.”
After its second open date of the season, third-rated Iowa Western (6-1) will host Fort Scott (2-5) on Saturday, with a 1 p.m. kickoff set for Titan Stadium on the campus of Lewis Central High School.
The Reivers coach said it was a productive off week. Iowa Western practiced once, but ran and lifted plenty to stay in shape. The week also allowed some players to shore up their academics and refresh their bodies.
“Hopefully, they’re rejuvenated for this week,” Strohmeier said.
A change in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference rules places no limits on out-of-state players on their football rosters. While it may not have improved the top-tier teams as much as some expected, it has affected programs that traditionally have been closer to the bottom, Strohmeier said.
“It’s made the league, top to bottom, a lot better,” he said. “I think it really improved probably some of the lower-tier teams moreso than it improved the top-heavy teams.”
Fort Scott has a 33-0 win over Independence, last year’s conference champion. Last week, however, the Greyhounds threw seven interceptions in a 35-14 loss to Butler. Starting quarterback Gunnar See threw two of the picks in the first quarter before he was injured and didn’t return. Backup Justin Agner threw the other five.
Strohmeier said it would be a mistake to overlook the Greyhounds, who have eight or nine Division I transfers on their roster.
“There’s weapons across the board,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to be disciplined.”
Iowa Western is reasonably healthy for this stage of the season, though defensive end Malcolm Lee is still doubtful with an elbow injury.
Strohmeier said his team must continue to progress to get where it wants to be at season’s end.
“I think we’ve made improvements and are playing a lot better in other phases, but I still don’t think we’re where we need to be,” he said.