COUNCIL BLUFFS — After a Sept. 21 home loss to Garden City, expectations for the remainder of Iowa Western’s season may have been tenuous.

The Reivers just lost their third straight game to fall to 1-3. National title hopes weren’t on their minds; putting an end to the losing was a more immediate concern.

But look at the Reivers now.

Heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. clash with sixth-ranked Butler (8-2), Iowa Western (6-3) has won five in a row to climb back to No. 11 in the NJCAA rankings.

Not a bad turnaround in seven weeks.

And facing Butler should provide the Reivers with a legitimate test to see how far they’ve come. Both teams are playing well.

Butler enters on a three-game winning streak and averages 391 yards and 29 points per game, but it’s the Grizzlies’ defense that stands out. They’re allowing 15 points per game, and in their eight victories, that number dips to 8.3.

“They’ve always been good on defense,” Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. “They’re coached extremely well. They play hard, and that’s kind of been Butler’s MO on D. And they’ve always had a good O-line and running backs. They make sure they have that in recruiting.”

Butler freshman Brock Sturges has rushed for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Freshman QB Jack Samsel has taken over for injured starter Steven Frank.

The Reivers’ offense — specifically, their running backs — continues to suffer from injuries. Freshmen Jayson Murray, Sheldon Cage and sophomore ZaQuandre White are expected to miss Saturday’s game. Freshman Brian Snead had shouldered a larger role the past two weeks, but his status is in question after a heel injury in practice this week.

That means freshman Chandler Cotton, who wasn’t on the active roster at the start of the season, would get the start.

Should Cotton get the start, former Council Bluffs St. Albert standout Luke Waters, who began the year as a backup tight end, would be second in line for carries.

Saturday will present a challenge for Iowa Western, but it will also serve as an opportunity to show how much this team has changed.

“We’ve still got two more games to go,” Strohmeier said. “Let’s finish this thing off. When we were sitting at 1-3, people were questioning what we have to play for, the season’s over, all that. Now to see where we’re at, we’ve got an opportunity to beat the No. 6 team in the country at our home place when we’re playing pretty well.”

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