CEDAR FALLS — Everybody knows the Cedar Falls Tigers lost superstars Jack Campbell and Logan Wolf off their state runner-up football team.
Cedar Falls also lost all five starters on its offensive line.
But you never would have known it Friday night.
The rebuilt and reloaded Tigers, ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, excelled on both sides of the ball in dominating Ames 39-3 in the season opener at the UNI-Dome.
Cedar Falls, 12-1 last season, shook off a slow start to build a 17-3 halftime lead before pulling away with a dominant second half.
“We have a lot of new faces and we definitely developed a little more consistency in the second half,” Cedar Falls coach Brad Remmert said. “We got the run game going and our passing game going. We had real good balance. We have a brand-new offensive line and those guys did a heck of a job.”
Senior quarterback Cael Loecher, held to just 31 first-half passing yards, came on strong to finish with 176 yards. He passed for one touchdown and ran for another.
“We have a lot of new guys and we’re becoming more comfortable playing together,” Loecher said. “It took a while, but we finally started clicking in the second half. We had a great year last year, but I’m really excited about the guys we have this year.”
Loecher, a returning starter, found his rhythm in the third quarter as Cedar Falls steadily widened its lead.
“It’s huge having someone of Cael’s caliber back there,” Remmert said. “He has really matured and improved since the start of last year. Cael made some checks at the line of scrimmage that led to some big plays. He sees the field really well and is a great leader for us.”
Senior running back Bo Grosse showed off his blazing speed by running for 131 yards and a pair of scores on just 14 carries.
“This group just needs time together,” Remmert said. “Grosse has great speed and he ran really well. It’s just going to take time for our offense to sync up on what they’re trying to do.”
The Tigers took the field for the first time since losing a heartbreaker to West Des Moines Dowling in the Class 4A state championship game last November.
Cedar Falls also excelled defensively against a pass-happy Ames team that put the ball in the air 46 times.
The Tigers held the Little Cyclones to just 21 yards rushing and scored on a pick-six by Alex Paxson.
Senior defensive end Collin Bohnenkamp was all over the field for Cedar Falls. He recorded four tackles for loss, including two sacks.
“Our defense really stepped up,” Remmert said, “and made some big plays.”
“Our defense was outstanding,” Loecher said. “But that’s nothing new.”
The Tigers also unveiled a new weapon in kicker Bryce Albaugh.
“Bryce did an excellent job,” Remmert said. “His kickoffs were consistently going into the end zone and that was huge for our defense with them having to start on the 20-yard line. Bryce has a heck of a leg.”
The Tigers travel to Iowa City High next Friday.
“It was the first game – you’re never going to be perfect and you’re going to make mistakes,” Loecher said. “We are going to get better every week and keep progressing and building. I’m excited about this season.”
Cedar Falls 39, Ames 3
Ames 0 3 0 0 – 3
Cedar Falls 14 3 15 7 – 39
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CF – Bo Grosse 15 run (Bryce Albaugh kick)
CF – Ben Sernett 6 pass from Cael Loecher (Albaugh kick)
Ames – FG Will Orth 34
CF – FG Albaugh 25
CF – Loecher 4 run (Albaugh run)
CF – Alex Paxson 55 interception return (Albaugh kick)
CF – Grosse 3 run (Albaugh kick)
First downs 16 13
Rushes-yards 24-21 27-183
Passing yards 198 176
Comp-att-int 25-46-2 10-19-0
Punts-avg. 8-30.1 4-37.2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-1
Penalties-yards 5-34 4-30
AMES – Gabe Ante 2-12, Cooper Downs 10-7, Derek Papin 12-2.
CEDAR FALLS – Grosse 14-131, Brayden Smith 2-21, Ryan Ostrich 2-18, Loecher 6-16.
AMES – Downs 25-46-2, 198 yards.
CEDAR FALLS – Loecher, 10-19-0 176 yards.
AMES – Gabe Ante 9-91, Jonah Strawhacker 8-77, Corey Phillips 4-9, Papin 2-15.
CEDAR FALLS – Ben Sernett 5-73, Trey Campbell 2-51, Daniel Hutchins 2-21, Ostrich 1-31.