Football: GREENE COUNTY’S WORKHORSE
By BRANDON HURLEY
Not much impresses Greene County’s Colby Kafer.
The thrilling, zig-zagging touchdown runs, the shattered records and piles of praise hardly move the needle.
He just wants to win, and if he obliterates the school record books along the way, so be it.
That’s not to say the senior tailback doesn’t appreciate greatness. His work ethic certainly proves his dedication.
Off the gridiron, Kafer is somewhat reserved and observant. But once he straps on the pads and slips on his helmet, number 2 becomes an agile force of nature, with the quickness of a gazelle combined with the brute strength of a bulldog.
The elusive runner is enjoying a career year across the board, helping the Rams preserve a historic mark. Kafer owns three Greene County school records while producing a career-best 1,038 rushing yards through seven weeks, which is the third best total in 2A, to go with 10 touchdowns. Only Atlantic’s Tyler Moen (1,066) and Oelwein’s Gage Voshell (1,050) have more yards.
Kafer cemented himself among Greene County lore earlier this season, extending his lead on the Greene County career rushing mark, having tallied 2,480 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with a career yards per carry average around seven yards. He also broke his own single game school record, exploding for 361 yards in a week two win over Nevada.
But, never one to boast, Kafer quickly pushes any credit off to his teammates. Following his record-breaking night in Nevada, Kafer was all praise.
“We have a really good (offensive) line,” he said. “I didn’t get touched much at all. I just follow(ed) my blockers.”
This spectacular run midway through his senior year, which has led Greene County to a No. 5 ranking and the best start in program history (7-0), is that of perseverance and patience.
Kafer has endured his fair share of ups and downs throughout his career, muddling through a one win season in 2017 (1-8) before splitting carries a year ago (albeit the Rams had one of the best seasons in school history, producing an 8-2 record). The then junior still managed to pile up 776 yards while sharing duties with Clint Dennhardt.
Kafer has let loose this final go-around and has the accolades to show for it. The keys have been handed to the tailback and he’s kicked it into hight gear. Kafer is averaging 161 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game through six weeks. He’s produced magnificent stat lines while also grinding through contest for those tough yards. Kafer can hit you with breakaway speed or pick his spots and burst through tackles. It’s all coming together in Kafer’s senior year, which has the Rams three weeks from completing an undefeated season.
“I think most of it came with maturity and game reps,” Greene County assistant coach Chad Morton said. “He’s getting more carries (this year). To me, he feels like a redshirt senior, he’s really getting to enjoy that special year (now that he’s the lead back).
Morton continued, “He’s always been a good running back, but it’s great to see him have (the success) this year.”
Kafer flashed his talent early in his football career, tallying a then school record 285 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Iowa Falls-Alden during his sophomore year, the Rams’ only win that fall. He was an integral part in the Rams’ success a year ago, transforming that experience into a superstar campaign this fall.
Confidence has been vital. It’s allowed Kafer to become one of Greene County’s strongest leaders, though he’s not usually the most outspoken.
“He leads by example. He’s not a big, boisterous person,” Morton said. “He’s not going to be a person who speaks negatively, but his teammates recognize that and follow him.”
Kafer’s taken the biggest leap with his field vision. It’s almost as if he sees the hole before it even opens. And if it closers faster then expected, the senior has the supernatural talent to change directions and accelerate in a split second.
That exceptional skill is what really has vaulted Kafer to the top of the state. He’s always had the speed and his strength has continually progressed throughout the years. But his ability to burst through the proper gap and navigate his way around tacklers is what separates the veteran.
He’s explosive and tough to bring down. He’s a thrill to watch, especially for Greene County’s most high-profile athlete, Tyler Miller. The future Iowa State tackle opens up many of the running lanes for his good friend, then often finds himself excitedly watching in awe as Kafer works his way downfield.
“Colby is electric, he’s stupid fast. He’s quick, he’s strong. You can’t arm tackle him,” Miller said. “He’s a really good running back and I’m lucky to have him as running back. He’s a dog.”
Kafer’s long touchdown runs have become the norm. They can rip open a tight game or shake the Rams out of a slumber. The electrifying jaunts have become some of the most exciting plays each week.
“I go down (field), block for him and he cuts off me, he’s gone 50 yards down field and I follow him,” Miller said. “I don’t why I do every time. It kills me.”
Kafer’s speed has reached a peak in year three thanks to continuous training, in practice and on the track, where he’s a multiple state qualifier.
One play in particular sticks out. The senior tailback made a beeline for the right sideline midway through the second half against Nevada, and as he turned the corner and brilliantly worked his way through a crowd of defenders, he turned it up a notch, burning through the entire Nevada secondary en route to an 80-yard touchdown. As he crossed the 50, Kafer pulled farther and farther away from the nearest pursuant, seemingly picking up steam with each forceful stride. It was just one of three 50-plus yard touchdowns that night.
This year’s breakout, if you ask his friend Tyler Miller, is also because Kafer knows how little time he has left on the gridiron. From one win his sophomore year to 10 straight regular season wins and the possibility of an undefeated regular season and back-to-back playoff appearances, the opportunity for greatness is too good to pass up.
“I think he’s just trying to leave it all on the field. It’s his last season,” Miller said after Kafer’s breakout in Nevada. “You might as well leave everything on the field. Give it all he’s got because this is his last one. (It’s) senior football. You never know when you’re going to have a chance to play again. You have to put your heart and everything into it. Every play.”
Kafer’s speed obviously jumps off the page. Then, there’s his elusiveness. He deploys some of the state’s best jump cuts, leaving defenders grasping for air. The ability to make defenders miss is a combination of maturity and patience. If he trusts his vision and hits the proper hole, his breakaway speed will take over.
What’s really eye-popping, especially for Kafer’s stature, is his physicality. He’s a tough back to bring down. He’s rarely tackled on first contact. Kafer is also tough to corral because he hits the hole hard, with speed and power. That’s a brutal combination for a defender to combat.
Part of that is due to his work in the weight room, but he’s also willing to consider valuable criticism. That’s what Morton believes, who also coaches Kafer in track, separates the senior from other athletes.
“He doesn’t get upset when he doesn’t get instant results. He’s patient,” Morton said. “He believes in the coaches. Doing what is asked in the weight room, not just showing up, but really putting in work.
The coach continued, “Just look at him, he’s ripped and cut. I’m really happy for Colby. It’s his time. He’s more deserving of it than anybody.”
A veteran offensive line has not only provided substantial holes for Kafer, but they’ve also allowed Greene County QB Brent Riley to take his time in the pocket, giving him a chance to find the correct read. The line has really come together, Greene County head coach Caden Duncan said.
“There’s a lot of cohesiveness between them. (Iowa State commit) Tyler Miller’s kind of taken the bull by the horns and tried to be the leader,” the coach said. “Gage Michaelson, Brandon Hoyle and Cole Betts, all seniors, have done a really good job. Then we’ve had Joe Patterson and Mason Stream both working in there a little bit at different times. They’re both doing a good job.
Duncan continued, “(The offensive line) is really cohesive, they push each other and practice. They’re always working hard. They kind of know what the guy next to him is going to be doing at all times.”
Kafer is on pace to become Greene County’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2015, when Daric Whipple produced 1,101 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior year.
Marty Ball was the most productive Jefferson back of the last 15 years, rushing for 1,516 yards and 12 touchdowns back in 2007, the last time a Rams squad qualified for the state semifinals in the UNI Dome.
Class of 2011 graduate Schyler Bardole ran for 1,742 yards and 29 touchdowns for East Greene’s eight-man team in 2010, the highest single season total within the county in the last 15 years.
Bardole finished his career with 3,861 yards and 63 touchdowns, far and away the most productive rushing career in Greene County history, thought it was achieved on 80-yard fields in eight man football.
In today’s world, a dynamic running attack is key to the elite Greene County offense. It puts less pressure on Riley, while simultaneously opening up the pass game. Kafer’s home run ability provides an extra dimension to an already potent Ram squad.
“it opens up so many other things,” Morton said. “When we have a run game, who are you going to defend? We’ve got a running back who’s going to attack every time he gets the ball. What are you going to take away and how are you going to do that?”
Greene County puts its 7-0 record to the test Friday, Oct. 18 in the home finale against winless Red Oak. Kick is set for 7 p.m.