In the off-season, the North Iowa Knights decided to take a new path for the 2017 season and joined the Independent Amateur Football League. Judging by their 3-0 start, the move has paid off for the up-and-coming developmental team out of Pomeroy.
The Knights opened up this season with a 24-12 road win over the Quad City Riverhawks, then defended their home turf the following week with a 23-20 win over the Capital City Command to improve to 2-0.
“They’re a much larger team than us, out of the Des Moines area,” Knights head coach Raun Taylor told Developmental Football USA. “We’re a small team, half of our guys are National Guard or Army, not the best football players, but good soldiers and very patriotic guys.”
Last Saturday’s win was especially big for the Knights as the offense came hot out of the gate and built a 21-0 first quarter lead and carried it through the second half for a 27-8 win over the East Iowa Storm – a team that had put up 100 points against an opponent last year.
“Preston Peterson, our quarterback and he also plays some safety for me, and D.J. Hocken, my wide receiver, he’s pretty much unstoppable when those guys are clicking,” Taylor said.
Defensively, the Knights have done what they’ve had to do to remain perfect on the year as several guys have stepped up and made contributions behind the leadership of defensive lineman Jordan Shoesmith and strong side linebacker Jimbo Larrabee.
The character and the work ethic of the Knights is finally translating for them on the field and in the win column of the IAFL standings. The team which wears a National Guard patch as well as a ‘Jesus is Lord’ patch on their jerseys went 7-30 over the past four seasons, but they now remain just one of two unbeaten teams as the league closes in on the mid-season mark.
It’ll be an interesting second half of the IAFL season to see if one team can make it out unbeaten.
“The team that we haven’t played yet, our biggest rival, is the Northwest Iowa Bulldogs,” Taylor said. “They are also 3-0. They have an extremely dominant defense and they run a New England Patriots style of offense, with a dominant quarterback and wide receivers and they are averaging over 210 yards rushing per game. They’re 3-0 and we’re 3-0, but I’d say they’re the team to beat, not us.”
Playing each team a second time could also pose a challenge as each opponent will know what to expect out of North Iowa and who to key on.
“The biggest threats right now are some of the repeat performances,” Taylor said. “We have to go away to the Storm and away to the Capital City Command. They gave us fits because of their team speed, they’re one of the fastest teams in the league. I’m looking forward for those two away games because it will set the tone for playoffs.”
The IAFL was founded by a group of like-minded owners, whose focus was to create a safe league for teams to include their families and communities and steer clear of some of the riff raff other leagues experience at this level.
“We hope every team has success and a long season,” Taylor said. “Our league was founded as a safe and reasonable outlook for guys to get back into football. Our future looks bright as long as we continue to have the cooperation and the leadership of all the team owners working together.”
Teams from Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota have all expressed interest in joining the IAFL in 2018, Taylor said.