It’s been 20 years.
On one hand, it was bound to happen sometime. Yet on the other, there is just something about the annual Wilton vs. Durant football game.
I’ve been around this rivalry all my life. For whatever reason(s) the Wildcats just couldn’t beat the Beavers. Even in years where they were better on paper, either Wilton would rise to the occasion and/or Durant would falter.
Before our Durant readers say something like, “Sure a Wilton grad would say that,” the numbers back me up.
I’ve written about this in the past. I was born in 1982. In the last 37 years, Durant had beaten Wilton ONLY three times prior to last Friday night.
The Wildcats did the unthinkable and they did it in a big way, shutting out Wilton 24-0 on the road.
It was another one of those years where on paper, it made sense. The Beavers lost a mass of seniors who all played key positions in a program that had won 24 games in the past three years — an average of eight per season.
In talks with the coaches last week prior to the first Backyard Challenge action of the 2019-2020 school year, I said for only the second or third time in the nearly 20 years I’ve been doing this, I had no idea what to expect coming into the rivalry game.
I talked with Durant head coach Joel Diederichs the day of the game while at Durant doing the interviews for our front-page story on new Student Resource Officer Mike Meier. I told him it could be a 10-9 game or a 28-0 game in favor of either team. I had no clue.
Prior to the game, I Tweeted that to me it was about the two new quarterbacks — Durant’s Keagen Head and Wilton’s Mason Ormsby. Which one would make fewer mistakes? Which team would win the turnover battle? Head had a crucial fumble and Ormsby threw a couple of interceptions on the night, growing pains that are expected. Yet it was the DeLong brothers that carried the load for the Wildcats. The duo combined for 254 yards rushing.
In collegiate and NFL football, when a player “jumps off the screen,” it means he’s making eye-opening plays. Durant freshman Nolan DeLong did that in a big way Friday night as he burst onto the scene as a two-way player, scoring touchdowns and racking up sacks.
Diederichs told me in his office that before the end of the season, Nolan would be playing a big role on the team. Little did he know it would only take a matter of hours … or did he know?
He won’t be a secret weapon anymore as the Cats move forward in non-district action prior to competing again as one of the larger schools in Class A.
Wilton goes back to the drawing board but, as coach Ryan Hetzler said moments after the game, the mistakes are fixable. The Beavers have a tough non-district road ahead.
The coach of the Wildcats in 1999 the last time they beat Wilton was Tom Compton, a friend and current Durant defensive coordinator. In a bit of a humorous moment on the sidelines when the game was in hand, he told me that back in 1999 he wasn’t very happy with then athletic director Gary DeLong.
In a very unusual turn of events, both Wilton and Durant each had a hole in their schedule that season due to Central Lee forfeiting all its football games. Wilton had already defeated Durant that year 32-13. The schools agreed to play again to fill in the vacant spot on the schedule.
Compton said he told DeLong that he’d forever be known as the only Durant coach to lose twice to the Beavers in the same season. On the contrary, he’s been on the sidelines for the last three Durant wins — 1998, 1999 and 2019.
In case you’re keeping score, Durant won the 1999 rematch 40-14.
These rivalries are fun to watch and chronicle. My bigger question now is — Is this a blip or a trend for Durant?
Diederichs is not a Durant guy. He’s new to the school. He’s in his fourth year as DHS principal and third year as head coach of the Wildcats. However, he coached Durant to seven wins last season and the first ever district title and home playoff game. Then he turns around and beats Wilton on the road.
A better 12 months of Durant football may not exist. I told him after the game that he may never have to buy a drink or meal again in that town and, in fact, they may be selecting the pose for his statue as I write this.
We both had a good laugh. He’s preaching culture. He tells the story of when he took over the program, a player dropped a pass in one of his first practices and the players responded with, “That’s Durant football.”
“Not anymore,” Diederichs responded. And it hasn’t been. These Cats just may be onto something. Time will tell.
Iowa off and running after slow start—I attended Iowa’s first football game of the season last weekend — a 38-14 win over Miami (OH) under the lights in a night game at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes were spitting and sputtering for a half, leading just 10-7 at the break after being down 7-3 in the second quarter.
Famed Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was the honorary captain and I couldn’t help but wonder if Kirk Ferentz was looking over his shoulder. In fact I was thinking maybe they shouldn’t give Bob a headset at the break.
Iowa righted the ship in the second half and began running downhill with Mekhi Sargent. Third year starter Nate Stanley started hitting his targets as well, as the Hawks won the half 28-7 and the game 38-14.
As with any other year, this team will go as its defense goes. I’m looking for the offensive line to keep opening holes for a productive run game and for Stanley to use his experience to manage games if the Hawks want to contend.
Remembering Kenny Asmus—It was with a very heavy heart that I prepared the obituary of Ken Asmus of Wilton (see page 7). He was one of the true good guys of this town — heck, of this world.
I first got to know Kenny in the early 2000s when we both worked for a brief time at Rural Housing Institute (RHI) in Wilton. He was a kind man who never had a problem talking with someone who was young enough to be his son.
In the many years that followed, we always made time for each other whenever our paths would cross. This would happen a lot as he and his wife Donna never missed a Wilton event.
From riding on floats in Founders Day parades to sitting atop the bleachers at EVERY Wilton home sporting event, I always joked with them — especially Donna — that an event in Wilton wasn’t official unless the Asmuses were there. I’ll never forget Kenny’s smile and soft voice and for quite awhile, I’m sure I’ll habitually be looking for him in the stands at Wilton games.