By Tony Boone/World Herald Staff Writer
COFFEYVILLE, Kan. — The debuts of T.J. Starks and Milton Sargbah were bright spots for Iowa Western's offense during its 19-6 season-opening victory over Coffeyville on Thursday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
On the opposite end, were the three turnovers and seven false-start penalties the Reivers racked up.
Second-ranked Iowa Western overcame them in a far-from-perfect performance, thanks to a defensive effort that held the Red Ravens in check — outside of two long pass plays after the score was already 16-0.
"Coming in, our goal was to get a win. And we did," Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. "A lot of first-game errors on their end. We had a lot of first-game errors on our end. We just made a few more plays. We came out with the victory. That's the key. Now, we've got to get a lot better going to the next week."
The Reivers used a 32-yard punt return from Michael Zachary to set up a touchdown pass from Starks to Javonte' Richardson on the second play of the second period that opened the scoring. Starks then connected with Zachary from 5 yards out on Iowa Western's first drive of the second half to push the lead to 16-0.
Starks threw for 114 yards and rushed for 52 in his first meaningful playing time in three seasons of college football. He didn't attempt a run or pass during his one appearance in two years at Kansas.
"There was a little jitters coming into this one. But after the first drive, it was out," he said. "We didn't do good, to our perspective. But it's Week One. We're going to have mental errors. We'll bounce back."
The mental errors kept Iowa Western from finding the end zone more often. Hunter Pinegar knocked in a pair of field goals and had another attempt bounce off the right upright at the end of another drive.
Sargbah, a true freshman from Omaha North, carried the ball a team-high 20 times for 84 yards before leaving after a defensive player fell on his shoulder in the fourth. He said he was fine after the game.
"I was nervous as heck," he said. "To be real with you, I was real nervous. Then I got the first handoff. All the coaching staff had tremendous faith in me, and our offensive line was blocking was really good."
The Reivers, who ran to drain the clock for most of fourth quarter, finished with 159 yards on the ground. Coffeyville, meanwhile, managed only 60 against a defense led by Willie O'Hara's 13 tackles.
The Red Ravens got a 70-yard scoring pass from Carson Proctor, their third quarterback to see action in the game, to Andre Thomas-Cobb midway through the third quarter for their only score.
Proctor had a 56-yard pass to Kendric Jones late in the third that had Coffeyville threatening as the final period began. But Devin Drew sacked and stripped Proctor on the first snap of the fourth. Bellevue West graduate Malcolm Lee recovered the fumble 10 yards in the backfield as Iowa Western thwarted the last chance for a Red Ravens comeback.
The Reivers limited Coffeyville to 75 total yards in the first half. And more than half of the 232 they ended upfinished with came on the two long pass plays in the second half after the Reivers were well ahead.
"Really, that's all they got," Strohmeier said. "There's going to be some things that we're going to see that we need to improve there. But, shoot, we held them to nothing. And their two plays, they've got to max protect and just drop back and take a shot down the field. You know you're doing something right."
Iowa Western (1-0).........0 10 9 0—19
At Coffeyville (0-1)...........0 0 6 0— 6