COUNCIL BLUFFS — When we last saw Independence coach Jason Brown early in the fourth quarter, he had exited Titan Stadium because of an ejection and was walking slowly toward Lewis Central Middle School, a “Last Chance U’’ videographer dutifully trailing a few strides behind, rolling.
Maybe he’d seen enough of Michael Zachary.
The Iowa Western redshirt sophomore out of West Des Moines Dowling put on a show for the home fans. Zachary accumulated 314 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns on Saturday, carrying the No. 3 Reivers to a convincing 44-21 win over Independence.
Less than eight months ago, the 5-foot-9, 167-pound Zachary was wrestling in the 149-pound NJCAA national championship match at the Mid-America Center, where he settled for a runner-up finish. On Saturday, he showed that his future might be at the FBS level in football.
“He’s so electric,’’ Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. “He’s got such great balance. He’s so explosive. He’s one of the toughest kids we’ve had at that position. Somebody at the Division I level is going to get — if they haven’t jumped on it yet, they better get on it because he’s a special player.’’
Iowa Western improved to 6-1 and remained in the hunt for a spot in the national championship game, while Independence, a year removed from a Jayhawk Conference title, dropped to 1-5.
The controversial Brown, who is in his second season as the star of the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary series, consistently argued with officials about calls. Finally, with 10:27 left, they ejected him.
Neither coaching staff could have been pleased with its team’s discipline. Iowa Western was flagged 12 times for 135 yards and the Pirates were whistled 12 times for 129. Strohmeier was asked if he’d ever been in a game where the opposing coach was ejected.
“First time,’’ he said. “We’re not innocent by any stretch of the imagination. … Where I’m disappointed is I stress and harp that we don’t have to get the last word. Those are the things that in order for us to be great, we have to stop.’’
Between the penalties, Zachary’s fingerprints were all over the proceedings. He caught eight passes for 141 yards, returned four punts for 118, rushed five times for 33 and returned a kickoff for 22 more.
Zachary set the tone early in the second quarter on fourth-and-2, beating his defender on a slant and completing a 33-yard touchdown reception from T.J. Starks.
“I just gave him a quick move and tried to beat him inside,’’ said Zachary, who began his career at Grand View University in Des Moines. “T.J. trusts me enough where he was going to let the ball out and hopefully I’m there.’’Clinging to a 16-14 halftime lead, three big plays from Zachary broke open the game. He took a jet sweep, broke a tackle and completed a 6-yard touchdown run to put the Reivers up 23-14.
After the Iowa Western defense forced a punt, Zachary fielded it in heavy traffic and weaved spectacularly 64 yards to the Pirate 14, setting up Starks’ 4-yard TD run.
“I’ve always been like that since I was a little kid,’’ Zachary said. “I never got into the style of fair-catching. I always just catch the ball and figure out what to do after.’’
Said Strohmeier: “I’m like, ‘Hey, you can fair catch some.’ He’s like, ‘Coach, I don’t fair catch.’ You’ve got to find ways to have him touch the football. I don’t care how it is.’’
Zachary’s third touchdown came on a well-placed 15-yard pass from Starks, just over the defender in the back of the end zone, pushing the lead to 37-14.
The Reivers then forced a three-and-out, and Zachary caught another punt in traffic, returning it 32 yards. Brown appeared to believe that Zachary had signaled a fair catch and went after the officials again. They ejected him with 10:27 remaining.
Starks threw for 192 yards and two scores, while Omaha North product Milton Sargbah carried eight times for 66 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run.
The Iowa Western defense held Independence without a point for eight straight possessions, allowing it to take control.The Reivers hadn’t scored a touchdown all year in the fourth quarter, and they posted two on Saturday while winning the second half 28-7. “Obviously they’re a talented football team, and it takes a while to kind of feel each other out,’’ Strohmeier said. “I felt like if you could press them to a point where you could get two scores (up), that that would do it.’’
The Netflix cameras arrived on Iowa Western’s campus Friday afternoon. Zachary was one of the players they interviewed. He said his team responded well, and he’ll look forward to watching the episode next year involving his team.
“We did handle it good,’’ he said. “No one put on an act. No one acted for the cameras. It was the same as usual, just business.’’
Independence (1-5)...........................7 7 0 7—21
At Iowa Western (6-1)...........3 13 14 14—44
IN: Davijuan Dean 2 run (Ryan Redman kick)
IW: FG Hunter Pinegar 23
IW: Michael Zachary 33 pass from T.J. Starks (kick failed)
IW: Milton Sargbah 24 run (Pinegar kick)
IN: Dean 2 run (Redman kick)
IW: Zachary 6 run (Pinegar kick)
IW: Starks 4 run (Pinegar kick)
IW: Zachary 15 pass from Starks (Pinegar kick)
IW: Jason Harrison 7 pass from Clay Beathard (Pinegar kick)
IN: Raekwon Heath 30 pass from Chase Hildreth (Redman kick)
Rushing: IN, Davijuan Dean 27-105, Otumos Payemanu 10-36, Chase Hildreth 3-13, Jordan Jones 1-0, Ben Hutch Jr. 1-(-7). IW, Milton Sargbah 8-66, Michael Zachary 5-33, Gayflor Flomo 6-13, T.J. Starks 11-9, Yeshuwa Hicks 3-6, Clay Beathard 1-(-4), team 2-(-4).
Passing: IN, Chase Hildreth 21-40-1, 232 yards, 1 TD. IW, T.J. Starks 17-32-2, 192 yards, 2 TDs; Clay Beathard 1-3-0, 7 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: IN, Raekwon Heath 3-62, Markiese King 2-56, Dontrell Johnson 3-47, Roy Livingstone 3-21, Davijuan Dean 2-20, Matthew Wilcox 4-15, Dishon McNary 1-9, Marqwell Odom 3-2. IW, Michael Zachary 8-141, Jason Harrison 2-27, Gayflor Flomo 1-15, Marcell Barbee 1-14, Nick Singleton 6-2.
Tackles (solos-assists): IN, Kion Holder 4-0, Kuony Deng 4-0, Kelle Sanders 4-0. IW, Willie O’Hara 6-6, Daniel Isom 5-2, Jabari Meyers 5-0.