When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March of 2020, Ankeny Fanatic took advantage of the unexpected break from high school sports to publish the first of its many all-time Ankeny teams, recognizing the best boys’ basketball players in the community’s history.
This has since turned into a three-year project.
Ankeny Fanatic has now published its all-time teams in every sport with the exception of boys’ track. We hope to publish that one in the spring.
Earlier this fall, we announced the all-time Ankeny football team from the pre-Jerry Pezzetti era. Now, we are ready to announce the all-time team from the modern era, beginning with Pezzetti’s arrival at Ankeny in 1969.
The modern era team consists of four complete squads comprised of 24 players each. We will announce the third, second and first teams on each of the next three Mondays.
Here, now, is the first installment of the Ankeny Fanatic all-time Ankeny football team from the Pezzetti era:
Ryan Justice, QB: He was the first quarterback to lead Ankeny to a state championship in 1997, when he passed for 2,009 yards and was named to the Elite all-state team. He broke the school record that he set the year before, when he passed for 1,469 yards. Justice completed 132-of-236 passes and had 22 touchdowns, including two in the title game. He passed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in every game. In a 45-0 win over Fort Dodge, he went 10-for-11 for 162 yards and three touchdowns. He later passed for 247 yards and two scores in a 31-6 victory at Mason City. As a junior, Justice completed 105-of-186 attempts and had 14 touchdown passes. He threw for more than 100 yards in each of the last six games, including a 16-for-19 effort for 253 yards and three touchdowns in a win at Fort Dodge. “Ryan got better and better as the season went on,” Pezzetti said at the time. “He really came on and showed a lot of poise.” Justice spent a redshirt season at Iowa, where he was named the most valuable scout team member, before transferring to South Dakota, where he was a two-year captain and had two of the best passing seasons in school history. As a sophomore in 2000, he completed 151-of-303 passes for 1,826 yards and 13 touchdowns, helping the Coyotes to an 8-3 record. In 2001, he completed 142-of-292 attempts for 1,804 yards and eight scores. Then, as a senior, he passed for 1,254 yards and six touchdowns. Justice was named academic all-conference, received the USD Coaches Appreciation Award, and was awarded a Coyote Character Award. He is the son of Steve Justice, who was a standout at Ankeny in the early 1970s.
Colin Kadolph, RB: He racked up 3,641 yards rushing and 54 touchdowns during his career at Ankeny from 2019-21. As a sophomore, he ran 163 times for 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2020, he battled an injury and also split time in the backfield with Arland Bruce IV, but still managed to run for 840 yards and 15 scores on 93 carries while helping the Hawks to the state title. In the blowout of Southeast Polk in the championship game, he caught a 40-yard pass and also scored on a 4-yard run. As a senior, Kadolph carried a huge load for the Hawks, rushing for 1,801 yards and 23 touchdowns on 260 carries. In a 48-7 win at Waukee Northwest, he ran 24 times for 250 yards and six touchdowns. He later rushed for 183 yards and two scores as Ankeny posted a 35-13 win over Valley in the Class 5A semifinals to reach the title game for the second straight year. “Playing in the Dome is my favorite memory,” Kadolph said. “From only having two people per player at the games (during COVID) to having full student sections, the change in atmosphere it brought was like no other.” He was named to the all-state first team. Kadolph is now a freshman at Minnesota State, where he played in six games and rushed for 66 yards this season. “The bonds I’ve made with teammates and coaches over the years will last forever,” Kadolph said.
Tyler Leo, RB: He was a speedster who rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in 2008-09 while helping Ankeny to a combined record of 21-4 in those two seasons. As a junior, he rushed for 1,454 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 144 carries–averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. He ran 10 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a 56-17 win at Ottumwa. Two weeks later, he rushed for 225 yards and four scores in a 37-13 victory at Urbandale. In 2009, Leo rushed for 1,522 yards and 19 touchdowns on 205 carries. He also led the team in receiving with 13 catches for 226 yards and two more scores. He rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening win against Waukee. Leo later had another huge game at Ottumwa, rushing for 222 yards and three scores in a 35-7 triumph. He also ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over Indianola. He averaged 23.8 yards on 13 kickoff returns. He was named to the all-state second team. Leo then joined the Iowa State program as a walk-on. He earned a letter with the Cyclones in 2011.
Drew Hill, WR: He was a versatile offensive threat who scored touchdowns in a variety of ways during his career at Ankeny from 2015-17. As a sophomore, he caught 30 passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns while helping the Hawks to a 9-2 record. He also averaged more than 10 yards per carry, rushing for 253 yards and two scores on 25 attempts. He returned seven punts for 150 yards and two more touchdowns. Ankeny advanced to the second round of the playoffs before dropping a 17-7 decision to Council Bluffs Lewis Central. “My sophomore year is one of my favorite memories–being a part of coach Rick Nelson’s first team where we had much success,” Hill said. In 2016, he racked up more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He caught 38 passes for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 275 yards on 43 carries. He returned a punt 75 yards and a kickoff 95 yards for a pair of scores, and he also completed 4-of-5 passes for 88 yards and another touchdown. He was named to the all-state first team. As a senior, Hill played in just two games before suffering a season-ending injury during a loss to Centennial. “It happened on a punt return where I broke down the sideline and took a hit and landed on my shoulder resulting in a broken collarbone,” he said. Hill’s injury forced younger players like then-freshman Brody Brecht, who eventually starred on Ankeny’s state championship team in 2020, to step up. “Passing on my knowledge and skills to younger players and watching them succeed in their careers was a lot of fun,” Hill said. He went on to play at Truman State, where he contributed to the first 10-win team in school history and multiple postseason victories. “I am absolutely honored to be a part of this all-time team with such great men and competitors,” Hill said.
Greg Raney, WR: After catching seven passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns as a junior at Ankeny in 2009, it didn’t take long for Raney to make a huge impact as a senior. In the 2010 season opener, he enjoyed one of the greatest individual performances in Ankeny history, when he had 292 yards receiving and four touchdowns in the Hawks’ 42-7 victory at Waukee. Those totals rank seventh and tied for sixth all-time in state history. “It felt like a coming-out party for (then sophomore quarterback) Joel Lanning,” Raney said. “I was just the beneficiary.” After losing three times during the regular season, Ankeny went on a three-game winning streak in the playoffs and reached the Class 4A semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Dowling Catholic, 24-21. “It was so rewarding the way we finished the season,” Pezzetti said. “This team may have made the biggest move of any (Ankeny) team ever. We were a good football team at the end.” Raney ran 9 yards for a touchdown on a reverse to give the Hawks a 21-17 lead with 6 minutes 35 seconds left, but Dowling then answered with the go-ahead score about 2 minutes later. “We won only three games our sophomore year,” Raney said at the time. “We tried to prove it to other people and prove it to ourselves that we’re a better team than we were then.” Raney caught 38 passes for 838 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 22 yards per catch. It was the second-highest receiving total in school history at the time. He was named to the Elite all-CIML team by The Des Moines Register. “Getting to play with Joel under Jerry and Ryan (Pezzetti) and wide receivers coach Sharpe was special,” Raney said. “Also, watching the younger classes find success in the few years after I graduated in the state championship made a lot of us in the Class of 2011 proud. Obviously, getting to play in the state semifinals and trying to avenge the loss earlier in the year to Dowling is the game that sticks with me the most. We came up short, but I like to think we gave them hell!”
Kenny Segin, TE: As a junior at Ankeny in 1998, he was one of the team’s leading receivers, catching 15 passes for 170 yards as the Hawks struggled to a 3-6 record. He caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in a 56-21 win over Mason City. He had three catches for 45 yards in Ankeny’s 28-14 victory at Fort Dodge. He was a two-way starter as a senior until his season was cut short due to a knee injury. He caught eight passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns on offense, and he made 17 tackles and returned an interception for another score as a defensive end, helping the Hawks to a 3-1 start. Despite playing in just four games, he received all-conference honorable mention for a team that went on to finish with a 6-3 mark. Segin then joined the Iowa State program as a walk-on, and he became a three-time letterwinner from 2002-04. He played in 11 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2002, catching two passes for 26 yards while helping the Cyclones to a 7-7 record. In 2003, he played in 12 games and caught two passes for 43 yards.
Jeff Chambers, OL: He earned all-conference honorable mention as a junior at Ankeny in 1982, when the Hawks won the conference title and finished with an 8-2 record. He suffered a knee injury as a senior, so he didn’t fully realize his potential until after he graduated. “Jeff tore his ACL so he didn’t get much attention in high school, but he was really good,” said Luke Carlson, one of his teammates at Ankeny and at Northern Iowa. Chambers joined the Panthers’ program as a walk-on and eventually became a four-year starter. “He had an excellent career,” Carlson said. “He played offensive guard and at 265 (pounds) he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash. He was a stud that many (people) didn’t know about.”
Connor Devin, OL: As a senior at Ankeny in 2011, he was the anchor of an offensive line for a team that finished with an 11-2 record. The Hawks opened the season with a six-game winning streak before dropping a 28-16 decision to Dowling Catholic. Ankeny then reeled off five more wins, capped off by a 27-17 win over Southeast Polk in the Class 4A quarterfinals. The Hawks then lost to Valley, 14-3, in the semifinals. Devin was credited with seven super blocks on the season. He was named to the all-state first team.
Dave Jones, OL: He was a standout tackle on the 1978 Ankeny team that tied for the Central Iowa Conference title with South Tama and Urbandale. The Hawks averaged 23.1 points per game and set new school records at the time with 2,157 rushing yards, 2,896 total yards and 126 first downs. He was a unanimous pick to the all-conference team and was also selected to the all-state third team. “That was a long time ago, but I don’t know if you realize when you’re in high school how important that stuff is to you until it’s gone. Some of those (games) are hard to remember, but I do remember how fiery Jerry (Pezzetti) was,” Jones said. “He was younger then. Not that he isn’t still fiery–sometimes he is. Jerry had not had a great season up until that point–a couple of 6-3 (records). We were able to go 8-1, but back then you had to go undefeated to make the playoffs and we didn’t. But we were able to beat Valley the last game of the year, and they were going to the playoffs. So we made that our playoff game. That was probably my best memory.” Jones went on to play for Iowa Central before transferring to South Dakota State, where he played for the late John Gregory, who eventually became the Iowa Barnstormers coach. He started at guard and was a two-year letterwinner for the Jackrabbits. He eventually returned to Ankeny and became a longtime assistant coach under Pezzetti. “I headed to college without a clear plan, but I helped out at the Y camp after high school and (assistant coach Roger) Rohwedder asked me if I had ever thought about being a teacher and coach,” Jones said. “He said maybe I should because I was pretty good at it, so I changed my major and I guess the rest is history.” Jones helped Ankeny to a pair of state titles and another championship game appearance, but he said it’s the unexpected wins throughout his coaching career that he’ll remember the most. “Those are the fun ones–the games where nobody gives you a chance,” he said. “Like the win at Centennial when we beat Valley and Rocky Lombardi in the playoffs (in 2016).” Jones is now retired, but he was on Pezzetti’s staff for many of the biggest wins in his career. “We were coaching at a good place,” Jones said. “We had good kids and good coaches, and good things will happen when you have those things. It wasn’t really my plan to come back home, but it just kind of worked out that way.”
Brock Wageman, OL: He was a two-year starter at Ankeny in 2015-16. As a junior, he helped the Hawks to a 9-2 record in their first season under Nelson. After dropping a 20-17 decision to Johnston in its second game, Ankeny then reeled off seven consecutive victories. The winning streak began with a 24-16 victory over Ankeny Centennial, marking the Hawks’ first win against their crosstown rival. Ankeny’s high-powered offense scored 49 points against four different opponents and erupted for a season-high 56 in a win over Sioux City North. In 2016, Wageman helped the Hawks to a 6-4 mark that included a six-game winning streak where the team averaged 44.2 points per contest. He was named to the all-state second team. Wageman went on to play at Grand View, where he was a three-year starter for the Vikings. As a senior in 2020, he earned first-team all-conference honors at left tackle after Grand View went undefeated in Heart of America Athletic Conference play.
John Yount, OL: He was a two-year starter at Ankeny Centennial in 2015-16. As a junior, he helped the Jaguars to an 8-3 record. In 2016, he was part of a team that went 10-2 with both of its losses coming to eventual Class 4A state champion Dowling Catholic. Centennial twice defeated crosstown rival Ankeny after losing to the Hawks the previous season. “I still have stories to this day coming back to my hometown and talking with old friends about plays in the game,” Yount said. “I look back and think how special it was to play against people I grew up with. Playing against coach Nelson was also special as my dad and him were college roommates. Rick has been an uncle to me my whole life and I look up to him, so playing against him for two years was special.” Centennial scored more than 50 points on five different occasions that season. The Jaguars posted a 14-10 victory at top-ranked Valley in the Class 4A quarterfinals to advance to the UNI-Dome for the first time in school history. “That’s definitely one of my favorite memories,” Yount said. “Having the whole team come together to achieve one goal and win was very special to be a part of and a memory that will stick with me forever.” Centennial then lost to Dowling, 41-17, in the semifinals. Yount was named to the all-state first team and earned a spot at the River Battle Bowl. “John was really good,” said Centennial assistant coach Mike Fontana. “He was probably one of the strongest, most powerful players we’ve had.” Yount went on to play at Northern Iowa, where he followed in the footsteps of his father, David, who was a defensive lineman for the Panthers in 1982. He joined Nelson’s staff as an assistant coach at Ankeny for the 2022 season, helping the Hawks to a 9-2 record. “It’s been very special to be coaching under Rick,” he said.
Zeb Miller, PK: He was one of the most accurate kickers in Ankeny’s history. As a junior in 2007, he made 47-of-49 PATs for a team that advanced to the Class 4A championship game before losing to Bettendorf, 21-16. He connected on 7-of-10 field goals and had three of them in the loss to Bettendorf, including a Class 4A title-game record 47-yarder in the second quarter that cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-10. He booted a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter, then added a 17-yarder with 2 minutes 26 seconds left that gave the Hawks a 16-14 lead. Bettendorf then drove 80 yards in 12 plays for the winning touchdown. As a senior, Miller connected on 48-of-49 PATs, giving him two of the top 10 seasons in Ankeny’s history in PAT percentage. He also made 7-of-9 field goals before suffering a broken collarbone during the Hawks’ 48-13 substate victory over Sioux City North that ended his season. He averaged 59.3 yards on his kickoffs and booted 49 of his 66 attempts into the end zone. He was named to the Elite all-state team. Miller went on to become a four-year starter at North Dakota, where he ranks among the all-time leaders in multiple categories. During his sophomore year, he approached head coach Chris Mussman before a game against Southern Utah. “He said, ‘coach, I need to talk to you,'” Mussman said. “Whenever anyone says that, it’s usually never good. But he wanted to make sure at the coin toss that I factored in that we could have the wind in the fourth quarter and he could hit with the wind from 60 (yards).” Miller went on to make a 45-yard field goal in the swirling wind late in the game, playing a key role in UND’s 26-20 victory. “I have a better understanding this year of what the kicking game’s about,” Miller said at the time. “I feel in sync with everyone on the team. As long as everyone does their part, all I have to do is put it between the pipes.” Miller was preceded at UND by all-American kickers Brandon Hellevang, Jeff Glas and Cameron Peterka. “I think (Miller) can be that caliber,” Mussman said then. “He can be one of those special guys in the proud history of kickers at the University of North Dakota.” Miller went on to reach those high expectations. He ranks fourth in career PATs (131-of-136), fifth in career points (266) and is tied for fifth in career field goals (45-of-65). In 2013, he was named to the all-Big Sky academic team and was the recipient of the Athletics Director Award of Merit for the second straight year. Miller was also a standout soccer player at Ankeny who played on the Hawks’ state championship team in 2007. He was earlier named to Ankeny Fanatic’s all-time Ankeny boys’ soccer team.
Cale Anselme, DL: As a sophomore in 2012, he started at linebacker on Ankeny’s state championship team. The Hawks trailed Cedar Rapids Xavier, 17-15, with less than 6 minutes left, and the Saints had a chance to take some more time off the clock after Brendan Miller ran 9 yards to the Xavier 19-yard line, setting up a 2nd-and-1 situation. But the Ankeny defense rose to the occasion, stopping Miller and Matt Thorsteinson for no gain on back-to-back plays and forcing Xavier to punt. “Our offense was struggling, and we really picked them up and gave them a chance to win the game there at the end,” Anselme said after the Hawks drove for the winning touchdown in a 23-17 victory. He placed eighth on the team with 53 tackles. He also had an interception return for a touchdown. In 2013, Anselme moved across town when Centennial opened and switched to the defensive line. He made 48 tackles as a junior, including seven for losses. He recovered a fumble and also intercepted two passes that he returned for a total of 30 yards, helping the Jaguars to a 7-4 record. In 2014, he made 39 tackles–including 11 for losses–and recovered a fumble. He helped Centennial to a 7-3 mark. He was named to the all-state second team. “Cale was a smart player,” said Centennial assistant coach Mike Fontana. “Coming from linebacker to defensive line, he pretty much knew the whole front seven. He always had that look on his face like he was going to kick your butt.” Anselme went on to have a solid career at Grand View.
Mark McLelland, DL: He was a standout on the 1982 Ankeny team that posted an 8-2 record and outscored its opponents by a 264-108 margin. The Hawks’ only loss during the regular season came to Newton. Ankeny beat Valley in its final game, 14-13, to win its second straight conference title. The Hawks led the conference in several categories, including total defense. The win over Valley also secured a playoff berth, but as it turned out, Ankeny would have been in the playoffs even with a loss. The only difference would have been the opponent in the opening round. Ankeny’s victory made it possible for Sioux City Heelan, instead of Dubuque Wahlert, to be in the playoffs. So, the Hawks traveled to Sioux City on a cold November day. The game was played in a snowstorm and the Hawks fell to the eventual Class 4A state champions, 22-14. McLelland was named to the all-state first team.
Dan Rauser, DL: He was a junior lineman on the 1991 Ankeny team that posted a 7-3 record. The Hawks won four games by three points or less, including a 25-22 victory over top-ranked Dowling Catholic. “We went into that game on an adrenaline high,” Rauser said at the time. As a senior, he was a standout for a squad that struggled to a 4-5 mark. Pezzetti attributed the team’s up-and-down season to a difficult schedule. “We had some tough games,” Pezzetti said. “We were the only school in the state that played five playoff teams.” The highlight of the season was a 28-20 victory at Urbandale that allowed Pezzetti to earn his 200th career triumph. Rauser had six tackles in the win. He had 13 tackles in a 16-15 loss to Marshalltown and 13 more in the final game of his high school career–a 25-7 loss to Ames. He led the Hawks with 132 Bandit points. He had 10 sacks and nine tackles for losses. He also recovered a fumble and batted down a pass. Rauser was named to the all-state second team. His younger brother, Daryl, starred for the Hawks a few years later.
Brody Targgart, DL: He was a three-year starter who racked up 128.5 tackles in his Centennial career from 2020-22. As a sophomore, he made 31 tackles for the Jaguars during a season that was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, he had 44 tackles for a team that doubled its win total from the previous season, finishing with a 4-6 record. Centennial’s biggest win was a 14-7 upset over second-ranked Ankeny–a team that went on to place second in Class 5A. “Beating Ankeny my junior year was pretty cool,” Targgart said. “That was probably my favorite high school football memory.” As a senior, he placed third on the squad with 53.5 tackles, including 39 solo stops and a team-high 13 for losses. Centennial advanced to the playoffs for the second straight year before dropping a 14-10 decision in the opening round at Cedar Falls, which avenged a 28-14 loss during the regular season. Targgart recovered two fumbles in his career and was a two-time all-district first-team selection. “I always felt like I had to prove myself every play and every game because you never knew when your last snap might happen or who was watching, but I always played as hard as I could no matter the game or situation and that definitely helped me on the field,” Targgart said. Centennial defensive line coach Mike Fontana called him one of the five best players that he has coached in his career. “Brody plays with an attitude. He has an edge to him,” Fontana said. “He ate Cedar Falls up in both of those games this year. After the playoff game, a college friend of mine who is on the Cedar Falls staff told me, ‘No. 44 is a stud.'”
Andy Becker, LB: The son of longtime Ankeny assistant coach Mark Becker, he was a two-way standout for the Hawks in 2000-01. As a junior, he made 66 tackles for a team that posted an 8-2 record. He had 13 tackles in a 49-7 win at Johnston that closed out the regular season, then had 11 more in a loss to Dowling Catholic in the opening round of the playoffs. In 2001, he starred on both sides of the ball as Ankeny went 10-2 and reached the Class 4A semifinals. He was the leader of a defensive unit that allowed 20.3 points per game. He made a team-high 108 tackles and also played a pivotal role on special teams, blocking two punts and two PATs. He led the Hawks with 166 Bandit points. On offense, he rushed for 1,099 yards and 16 touchdowns. His total of 110 points ranked fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list at the time. Becker then went on to play for Iowa, where he joined the Hawkeyes’ program as a preferred walk-on and became a standout on special teams, earning a Hustle Award from the coaches. He lettered in 2004-05.
Easton Miller, LB: He was a two-way standout who helped Centennial to playoff appearances in 2021-22. As a junior, he played primarily on defense and made 59 tackles. In the opening round of the playoffs, he returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes of the Jaguars’ 35-21 loss at Valley. “I just remember knowing we needed a big play this late in the game, and I read the quarterback’s eyes and took my drop,” Miller said. “I saw the ball in the air and grabbed it with basically one hand because I was playing with a club (on my other hand). I ran it back for the touchdown, and it was awesome.” As a senior, he contributed 46 tackles, including 11 for losses. He also saw a lot of action at running back, where many of his carries came in short-yardage situations. He ran 83 times for 387 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 39 yards and another score. Miller served as the team’s punter as well, averaging 38.5 yards on 37 punts. He was named to the all-district first team for the second straight year and was also selected to the all-state second team. He has been offered a preferred walk-on spot by Iowa State.
Rob Myers, LB: He saw most of his action on offense as a junior at Ankeny in 2009, when he rushed for 373 yards and six touchdowns as a fullback. He also caught eight passes for 122 yards and one score. He contributed 14 tackles on defense. In 2010, he started both ways for a team that finished with a 9-4 record. On offense, he ran 73 times for 411 yards and seven touchdowns. He made a team-high 121 tackles, including 14 for losses. That tied for the third-best single-season total in school history at the time. He also led the team with three fumble recoveries and racked up 181 Bandit points. He was named to the all-state second team. Myers went on to play at Iowa Western, where he helped the team go undefeated and win the national title with a perfect 12-0 mark in 2012. He placed second on the team with 72 tackles and had 34 solo stops. He also returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown. He took a redshirt year at Iowa State in 2013, then transferred to Minnesota State and played his final two seasons for the Mavericks. He recorded 123 tackles and seven interceptions while playing in all 27 games in 2014-15, including 25 starts. He earned second-team all-NSIC honors as a senior.
Jason Brenny, DB: He was one of only two juniors who started on Ankeny’s 2001 squad, helping the Hawks to a 10-2 record. He placed fourth on the team with 76 tackles and was second among the Hawks with 112 Bandit points. As a senior, he again helped Ankeny to a 10-2 mark and another trip to the Class 4A semifinals. He made eight tackles in the Hawks’ 9-0 win over Newton in the quarterfinals. He had 31 tackles on the season and blocked a pair of punts. On offense, he was the team’s leading receiver with 16 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball twice for 75 yards. In a 35-14 victory at Johnston, Brenny had three catches for 59 yards and a score. He was named to the all-state first team.
Garrett Nichols, DB: He was a three-year starter at Centennial who racked up nearly 200 tackles in his career from 2014-16. As a sophomore, he placed third on the team with 57 tackles, 13 of them in a come-from-behind win over Ankeny. He recovered two fumbles and picked off a pass. He also saw some action at running back, where he rushed 21 times for 203 yards and a touchdown while catching four passes for 72 yards and another score. In 2015, Nichols placed second on the team with 69 tackles. He recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pair of passes that he returned for a total of 75 yards. On offense, he ran 42 times for 454 yards and three touchdowns–averaging nearly 11 yards per carry. As a senior, he again placed second on the team with 67 tackles, including eight for losses. He also made his fourth career interception. He was named to the all-state first team. Nichols went on to play at Grand View.
Tyler Rodgers, DB: Like Nichols, he was a three-year starter at Centennial, and his career overlapped with Nichols for one year in 2016–when he made 39 tackles as a sophomore. He also ran 11 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns on offense. As a junior, Rodgers had 56.5 tackles. In 2018, he helped the Jaguars to the only undefeated regular season in school history. He made 58 tackles while catching three passes for 36 yards on offense. In the fourth game of the season, he had 8.5 tackles–including six solo stops–as Centennial rallied in the second half for a 14-7 victory over Dowling Catholic. “My best memories were the years going to Valley Stadium and battling Dowling and having some classic games there,” Rodgers said. “The Ankeny vs. Centennial games were always a blast, too.” He was named to the all-state first team. Rodgers then joined the Iowa State program as a preferred walk-on and played three seasons for the Cyclones.
Scott Ryan, DB: He was another two-way player who helped Ankeny to a combined record of 18-4 in 1989-90. As a junior, he helped the Hawks to their first Class 4A semifinals appearance. Then, in 1990, he rushed for 1,000 yards as a running back while also seeing action at defensive back and as a kick returner. In a win over Des Moines Hoover, Ryan ran 12 times for 240 yards and five touchdowns. “The Hoover game was the most memorable,” he said after the season. “It seemed like everything was going right for us. A lot of people thought when we beat Valley that it was a fluke. This game proved that it wasn’t.” Ankeny’s only two losses were a pair of close defeats to eventual state runner-up Newton. Ryan was named to the all-state second team. He went on to play at Graceland University, where he starred as a receiver and was a third-team all-conference selection in 1993.
Aaron McCombs, P: He was a talented receiver who took over the punting duties as a senior at Ankeny in 2001 when state champion swimmer Kiel Huston, who had punted the year before, elected not to return to the football team. McCombs averaged 41.1 yards on 30 attempts, which ranked second in school history at the time. He had an 80-yard punt in a win over Council Bluffs Lincoln, which is tied for the sixth-longest punt in state history. He was also the team’s leading receiver with 21 catches for 436 yards and six touchdowns, helping the Hawks to a 10-2 record. Ankeny punched its ticket to the UNI-Dome with a 41-33 victory over Ottumwa in the Class 4A quarterfinals, erasing a 19-point halftime deficit. “That second-half comeback is one of my favorite memories,” McCombs said. “I also got to play cornerback against the best receivers on the other teams. I loved the challenge. I enjoyed playing all three aspects–offense, defense and special teams.” He was named to the all-state second team. McCombs was also a basketball standout who could have pursued that sport in college, but he joined the Iowa football program as a preferred walk-on punter.
Dozens of players, many of them all-staters, just missed making the cut for our all-time teams.
It was especially difficult to leave the following four players off the teams. They all have outstanding credentials, but simply ran into a logjam at their respective positions.
This quartet, however, can still be proud of their accomplishments on the field. When combined with the 96 members of the Ankeny Fanatic all-time teams, they would rank among the top 100 players in the city of Ankeny over the last 53 years.
That’s still an amazing feat.
Here are the honorable mention picks:
Ian Begg, RB: He was a standout on Ankeny’s state championship team in 2012, when he rushed for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns on 132 carries–an average of 9 yards per carry. He also caught 19 passes for 354 yards and two scores. He ran seven times for 132 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown, in the Hawks’ 49-14 win over Marshalltown in the season opener. In his next game, Begg had 12 carries for 151 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-27 victory over Des Moines Lincoln. Later in the season, he had 12 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns while also catching a 64-yard scoring pass in a 55-8 triumph over Fort Dodge. He ran 11 times for 75 yards in the title game against Cedar Rapids Xavier and was named to the all-state second team. “It was a total team effort,” Pezzetti said at the time. “I guess I’m very proud that the entire community was involved in it. The fan support was outstanding, and the student body supported us tremendously. The noise in the Dome was just unbelievable.” Begg rushed for 201 yards on 37 carries as a junior, when he also caught five passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. He averaged nearly 36 yards on 11 kickoff returns and had a pair of scores, including one that he returned 97 yards.
Kyle Bolejack, WR: He caught 31 passes for 542 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior at Ankeny in 1996, becoming only the third player in AHS history at that point to surpass the 500-yard receiving mark. He had 10 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in a 28-27 victory at Urbandale, where Ankeny rallied from a 21-0 deficit and won the game in overtime when the J-Hawks failed on a two-point conversion attempt. He later had seven catches for 158 yards and two scores in a 28-14 win at Fort Dodge, where the Hawks rallied for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He also contributed in other ways, making 30 tackles as a linebacker and blocking three punts. He was named to the all-state third team. As a junior, Bolejack saw some action at running back. He ran 15 times for 107 yards and four touchdowns. “Kyle was a stud,” said Fontana.
Andrew Foley, LB: He was a two-way standout at Ankeny from 2005-07. As a sophomore, he made 83 tackles, including 16 in a loss to Dowling Catholic in the Class 4A quarterfinals. As a running back on offense, he rushed for 411 yards and six touchdowns. In 2006, he made 66 tackles while rushing for 483 yards and seven scores. Then, as a senior, he helped lead the Hawks to an 11-2 record and a runner-up finish in Class 4A. He was the leader of a defensive unit that allowed just 13.8 points per game. He placed third on the team with 80 tackles and also intercepted two passes, including one that he returned for a touchdown. He also averaged 38.7 yards per punt, the third-best mark in school history at the time. He had a 56-yard punt in the state championship game against Bettendorf. He was named the CIML’s defensive player of the year by the Des Moines Sunday Register and was selected to the Elite all-state team. He was a three-time first-team all-conference pick. Foley went on to play at Grand View.
Blaine Hawkins, QB: He was a two-year starter at Ankeny in 2015-16. As a junior, he passed for 1,446 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he suffered a season-ending injury in the final game of the regular season against Southeast Polk–and the Hawks eventually lost to Council Bluffs Lewis Central in the second round of the playoffs. In 2016, he completed 107-of-193 passes for 1,828 yards and 21 touchdowns. His high school career ended with a first-round playoff loss to Centennial, but even though he threw three interceptions, he ran 37 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns and even caught a 4-yard scoring pass. He was named to the all-state third team. Hawkins then went on to enjoy a prolific career at Central College, where he rewrote the school’s record book over the next five years. He set an NCAA all-divisions record with 63 touchdown passes in his final season in 2021. He was named the American Rivers Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second time and was a first-team AFCA Division III all-American. He capped off his brilliant career by becoming the first Central player to win the Gagliardi Trophy, which is the Division III version of the Heisman Trophy. “I was overwhelmed with emotions after they announced my name,” Hawkins said at the time. “I felt very lucky to share the moment with my family, friends and coaches. I am very proud that the Gagliardi is something that everyone at Central can take pride in accomplishing!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Ankeny Fanatic teams were selected by publisher Dan Holm, who consulted with former and current coaches before making his picks.)