IOWA FALLS – When it comes to junior college football, Iowa Western still rules the state.
The fourth-rated Reivers claimed their ninth straight conference title and eighth straight Region XI crown Saturday with a thorough 33-10 whipping of Ellsworth at Cadet Field.
"I'm happy for our guys,'' Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. "It was a tough day of travel and getting ready to go. Someday we'll look back on it and say, 'Nine straight, that's pretty impressive.' But right now, it's kind of what our expectations are and our goals.''
Iowa Western improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the three-team Iowa Community College Athletic Conference, while the Panthers dropped to 1-5 and 0-1.
The Reivers moved the chains effectively, rolling up 475 yards of total offense while surrendering just 184. They were 10 of 15 on third down and had 29 first downs to Ellsworth's 13.
Strohmeier said both sides of the ball took steps forward in the contest.
"We still had some mistakes and missed assignments, but I thought we both played well,'' he said. "We've just got to limit some mistakes that are crucial. But I felt we were in control of that thing from nearly the beginning.''
The Reivers took charge early on the strength of quarterback T.J. Starks' play. He accounted for four first-half touchdowns as the visitors sprinted to a 27-3 halftime lead.
On Iowa Western's first possession, Starks threw one up for 6-foot-4 JaVonte' Richardson, and the former University of Kentucky receiver hauled it in for the 24-yard score.
Later in the half, the Reivers scored on three straight possessions to break it open. After Chester Graves forced a fumble that Monte' McGary recovered, Starks scored on a 10-yard keeper to make it 14-0 with 2:23 left in the first quarter.
Starks flipped to a wide-open Michael Zachary for a seven-yard score on the Reivers' next possession, and then they needed just five plays to cover 60 yards and score again. Starks hit Zachary for a 20-yard TD to make it 27-3.
Starks finished 16 of 25 for 222 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and ran for 55 yards and the score.
"The game is slowing down so much for him,'' Strohmeier said. "He's knowing where to go with the football. He's giving the receivers a chance.''
Gayflor Flomo took some pressure off the passing game with 97 rushing yards on 25 carries, including a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Nick Singleton caught seven passes for 106 yards, while Zachary caught seven balls for 86 yards and the two scores.
The Iowa Western defense kept things under control in the second half. Willie O'Hara again led the defense with four solo tackles and six assists. Elijah James, a 6-4, 300-pound sophomore out of Chicago, turned in a strong performance with five solos and three assists, including three tackles for losses.
"He didn't practice that much this week with an ankle injury, but he played extremely well,'' Strohmeier said.
The Iowa Western coach said having such a strong defense gives the staff an abundance of ways to approach a game.
"You can go a couple ways,'' he said. "You can get conservative, or you can stay aggressive and take a few chances. Regardless, they're going to have to work to score. It's huge.''
Iowa Western returns home next week to face Independence before its second bye week of the season.
"Enjoy this one, get ready, then we've got another week to heal,'' Strohmeier said.
Iowa Western (5-1, 2-0) 14 13 6 0 – 33
Ellsworth (1-5, 0-1) 0 3 0 7 – 10
IW: Starks 10 run (Ogamba kick)
IW: Michael Zachary 7 pass from Starks (Ogamba kick)
E: FG Adijan Muhamedjic 28
IW: Zachary 20 pass from Starks (kick failed)
IW: Gayflor Flomo 2 run (kick failed)
E: Tariq Young 4 pass from Byron Jarrett (Muhamedjic kick)
RUSHING: IW, Gayflor Flomo 25-97, T.J. Starks 9-55, Clay Beathard 5-30, Milton Sargbah 6-28, Jabari Meyers 1-2. E: Byron Jarrett 16-30, Brennan McGaffee 4-18, Eric McArn 5-7, Mark Wright 6-2, Kardelle Phillips 2-(-3), Marquis Mickens 3-(-3), Taylen Alexander 2-(-10).
RECEIVING: IW, Nick Singleton 7-106, Michael Zachary 7-86, JaVonte' Richardson 1-24, Marcell Barbee 2-18, Mike Hill 1-15, Tanner Murphy 1-8, Gayflor Flomo 1-6. E, Tariq Young 3-33, Will Weidemann 1-28, Kardelle Phillips 1-26, Anthony Evans 1-18, Eric McArn 2-17, Jordan Foster 2-6, Luke McCall 1-0.