For several months, Ankeny Fanatic has been contacting the members of its all-time Ankeny football team to get a reaction from some of the players, as well as stories and favorite memories from their high school careers.
One former Ankeny standout responded with a poem that he wrote. Ross Naylor entitled it, “Pezzetti’s Proposal“, in honor of his legendary coach, Jerry Pezzetti.
Here’s his poem:
Boys becoming men
A Game of Chaos and Zen
We learned Respect and Discipline
How to connect with a team
How to run after our dreams
How to suffer for another
Bound by each other as brothers
Through the hot and cold
Our Injuries from youth now grow old
Learned Damage positions so controlled
Cherished those big hits like gold
Brings back the pressure of the locker room
Feeling my young testosterone boom
Meeting our opponents so very soon
Teeming for battle and ensuing wounds
I can still feel the rush
Sweat anxious to gush
The 4th and 1 hush
Through their line we must bust
Our fans came to this fight
Saw Spotlights on Friday night
Friends and family so packed tight
The chanting crowd the greatest delight
Heartbeats and breaths
Played so hard, just happy to rest
Win or lose, my team was the best
I miss those days I do confess
So, Just put it all on the field
Be the person the sweat can reveal
Stand for what you really feel
Live like you’ll always heal
Naylor, a bruising fullback and a disruptive presence on the defensive line for Ankeny’s 2007-08 teams, is one of 24 players on the all-time Ankeny football team’s second team. Here are those players who just missed making the all-time first team for the modern era, which will be released next week:
Jase Bauer, QB: He took over as the starting quarterback early in his sophomore season at Ankeny in 2018 and went on to pass for 5,479 yards in his career. He completed 88-of-157 attempts for 1,231 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first year as a starter, while also rushing for 471 yards and three scores. As a junior, Bauer led the Hawks to a 24-14 victory at Southeast Polk in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs, accounting for 352 total yards. He completed 16-of-26 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 63 yards and another score. For the season, he went 126-of-205 through the air for 2,207 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also ran for 369 yards and six scores. In 2020, Bauer enjoyed a spectacular season while helping Ankeny to the Class 4A crown. He began his senior campaign with a strong performance against Ankeny Centennial, completing 11-of-14 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns as the Hawks rolled to a 48-6 victory for just their second win ever against their rival. He completed 13-of-20 passes for 250 yards and five scores in a 35-10 triumph at Valley in Week 5, then had a near-perfect game the following week in a 49-0 rout over Johnston–going 17-of-18 for 156 yards and two touchdowns. In the Class 4A semifinals, Bauer passed for two scores and ran for the winning touchdown in double overtime as the Hawks dethroned seven-time defending champion Dowling Catholic. The loss ended a 32-game playoff winning streak for the Maroons. “Oh my gosh, I can’t express how it feels,” Bauer said at the time. “We’ve been waiting for this ever since we started playing varsity football. Everyone was just, ‘Who’s going to be the one to knock off Dowling?’ And we’ve been wanting to get a shot at them to knock them off.” He relied mostly on his feet in the championship game against Southeast Polk, when he ran 18 times for 158 yards and two scores. “What I remember the most is definitely our last two games in the Dome and obviously winning state,” Bauer said. He got to share the title with his father Jeff, an assistant coach for the Hawks and a former Ankeny standout as well. “That made it much more special,” Bauer said. “We will have those moments to share the rest of our lives. It’s been more than two years now, and I’m able to look back and really realize how special those years were. I’d do a lot to go back and play with those group of dudes again. High school football was some of the best years of my life.” Bauer completed 135-of-217 passes on the season and was intercepted just six times. He was the Class 4A leader in passing touchdowns (28), total touchdowns (38), passing yards (2,041) and total yards (2,893). He was a two-time all-Iowa selection by The Des Moines Register. He was named to The Register’s Elite team as a senior, when he was also selected the captain of the Class 4A all-state team by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association. Bauer was also a standout shortstop on the Ankeny baseball team. He was earlier named to Ankeny Fanatic’s all-time Ankeny baseball team. He elected to play football in college, and Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois were considered the front-runners for Bauer until late in the recruiting process, when Central Michigan became the first FBS school to offer him a scholarship. He committed shortly thereafter and is now a redshirt freshman on the Chippewas’ roster. He made his collegiate debut on Sept. 17 in a 41-0 win over Bucknell. He saw extensive playing time in the fourth quarter and scored on runs of 10 and 8 yards. In a 34-18 loss to Bowling Green on Oct. 22, Bauer came off the bench again and led both of CMU’s scoring drives. He ran 16 times for 109 yards and completed 18-of-25 passes for 185 yards, including an 8-yard scoring toss to Joel Wilson. CMU coach Jim McElwain said Bauer has earned some more playing time. “Just felt he was giving us a little bit of a spark,” McElwain said. “He did some OK things when he was in there. We’ll evaluate.” The Chippewas finished the season with a 4-8 record. Bauer appeared in six games, completing 35-of-59 passes for 435 yards. He also rushed for 355 yards and four scores on 53 carries.
Darrin Eilander, RB: Blessed with a potent combination of speed and power, he twice surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark while helping Ankeny to a pair of Central Iowa Conference titles in 1983-84. As a junior, he ran for a CIC-best 1,049 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Hawks posted an 8-1 record and outscored their opponents by a 315-80 margin but did not advance to the playoffs. In 1984, he rushed for 1,235 yards–setting a single-season school record at the time–and again scored 16 times as Ankeny went 8-1 in the regular season for the fourth straight year. “Watching Darrin break tackle after tackle every game is one of my favorite memories from high school,” said his teammate, Jon Leverenz. The Hawks then dropped a 19-18 decision to Des Moines Roosevelt in the opening round of the playoffs. Eilander was named to the all-state first team. “The most memorable moment for me was when Urbandale burnt the ‘U’ in the middle of our field,” Eilander said. “In those days, it was natural grass and (the field) was sacred. Nobody touched the grass except for the five home football games played each year. Anyway, Urbandale burns a giant ‘U’ in the middle of our field. The crazy part of the whole thing is that it was an AWAY game! Before loading the buses to head to Urbandale, the entire team circled this giant ‘U’ in the middle of our field. You could have heard a pin drop. Needless to say, we STOMPED them (55-14).” Eilander went on to become a four-year letterwinner at Northern Iowa, but he credits much of his success to Pezzetti and the Ankeny assistant coaches. “What can I say about coach Pezzetti and his coaching staff and the influence they had on me?” asked Eilander, a longtime insurance agent in Ankeny. “It always brightens my day when I cross paths with a former coach. A big part of who I am today–40 years later–is credited to the Ankeny Hawk football program. I am grateful to have been a part of it.” Eilander recalled many (mostly) fond memories of the team’s practices. “The chutes were always fun and tested your toughness,” he said. “We did up/downs til the cows came home. (Assistant coach Pete) Brejcha would do wind sprints with us and think he could beat me. And after practice, we would carry Ryan Pezzetti on our shoulders back to the school from the practice field. He was probably six years old at the time.” Eilander also enjoyed the end of the two-a-day practices in the preseason. “After the last one, a pickup truck full of watermelons would show up for us to eat.”
Jerry Heston, RB: The oldest player on our modern era team, he was a standout at Ankeny in 1967-68 before Pezzetti was hired. Then, as a senior, he played his final season for Pezzetti and caught 24 passes for 390 yards while helping the Hawks to a 3-6 record, catching the attention of college recruiters despite missing a few games due to an ankle injury. He earned 30 to 40 offers to play at the next level. “Jerry, first and foremost, was a fine person, a great family man, a credit to this community and a superb athlete in football, basketball and track,” Pezzetti said of Heston. Heston recalled that Pezzetti handed out a booklet to the team at the start of the season. “It said to come to practice in shape,” Heston said. “The only part left out was how to get in shape, which I believe I teased him about years later.” Despite their brief time together, Pezzetti made a big impact on Heston. “Looking back years later it’s the integrity Jerry Pezzetti possessed which of course was and is the key to his tremendous success as a coach and a person,” Heston said. “I remember one game in Ankeny where several members of the other team were talking trash at me, and my reaction was to unload on them with some pretty violent hits. Coach saw what was going on and said, ‘Don’t do that Hest’–which is what he calls me to this day.” After the season, Pezzetti told Heston that he would be honored along with Tim Sullivan of Dowling by the Central Iowa chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held by The Des Moines Rotary Club at Hotel Fort Des Moines. “A couple days before the event, coach says to me, ‘Hey, you might want to think about a few things to say because Randy Duncan and Bill Reichardt are going to introduce you guys,'” Heston said. “Long story short, Tim Sullivan was introduced first and gave a polished speech that lasted several minutes and I followed with an unpolished thank you that lasted about 10 seconds. Needless to say, it was a little embarrassing for our side of the table but we learned a lot about being prepared that day.” Heston accepted a full-ride scholarship to Drake and earned a starting role as a freshman running back, when he made an immediate impact for the Bulldogs. “I had several memorable games in college, but one play that stands out was a game against Western Illinois my freshman year where we were behind by a couple touchdowns and the first play of the fourth quarter I went 70 yards on a sweep to score,” Heston said. “The safety was the last man to beat, and one head fake and jab step left him on his knees grasping for air. His name was Mike Wagner, who later won several Super Bowls and was an All-Pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers.” Heston became a star and went on to break Johnny Bright’s school scoring record. He redshirted his senior year because of an injury, then started lifting weights to bulk up and became the strongest lifter on the team. He finished his Drake career with 3,019 rushing yards. He then tried to play professionally. “I went to the Atlanta Falcons rookie camp and was offered a contract, but was wooed to the WFL Shreveport Steamers by a former teammate,” Heston said. “I later played in the Chicagoland professional football league but my Achilles tendon would not hold up to the hits so that was the end of that story.” Heston was named the No. 19 greatest athlete in Ankeny High School history by the Ankeny Register & Press Citizen in 2006. He attended a 50-year reunion of the 1972 Missouri Valley Conference championship and Pioneer Bowl team during Drake’s homecoming weekend last fall. “I could talk football for a long time because the connections go on seemingly forever,” he said.
Matt Fredericksen, WR: He was one of the stars on Ankeny’s state championship team in 1997. After catching 16 passes for 206 yards as a junior, he blossomed into one of the state’s top receivers as a senior, catching 45 passes for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns. He set a single-season school record for receiving yards that stood for more than two decades. Fredericksen had five receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in the Hawks’ victory over Iowa City High in the Class 4A final. “One of the best memories I have from that season was after we had won the championship we were heading back to Ankeny from the UNI-Dome and I remember looking back behind our bus and all you could see for miles was the headlights of cars following us,” Fredericksen said. “It reminded me of that final scene out of the ‘Field of Dreams’.” He had four other 100-yard games, including the season opener at Marshalltown, where he caught five passes for 120 yards and a score in a 49-0 win. He helped Ankeny to an 11-2 record and was named to the all-state second team. “The relationships and friendships that were made with coaches and my fellow teammates while playing football at Ankeny are still friendships that I have and cherish to this very day,” Fredericksen said. “It’s been over 20 years and when I get together with the boys it’s always one of the first things that gets brought up is that season that we won state. No matter how long it’s been since I’ve talked to some of my teammates, it’s always something that we can immediately connect with.” Fredericksen went on to play at Drake, but he suffered two season-ending shoulder injuries that required surgery. His college career was cut short after three seasons with the Bulldogs.
Brady McCullough, WR: He was an underappreciated weapon on Ankeny’s state championship team in 2020, when he caught 17 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Often overshadowed in an explosive offensive attack that featured all-staters Jase Bauer, Brody Brecht and Arland Bruce IV in addition to talented junior running back Colin Kadolph, McCullough still had some big moments, though. He caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Bauer with 10 minutes 25 seconds left in the game–his only reception of the night–to give the Hawks a 17-14 lead over Dowling Catholic in the Class 4A semifinals. Ankeny went on to win, 31-24, in double overtime. “There were some things we were going to give up, and we did that,” Dowling coach TBrom Wilson said afterwards. “I felt we were trying to give as much help as we could to Bruce and Brecht, and Bauer makes enough plays with his feet that it makes it pretty difficult. They’re explosive. You’re not going to hold them down for four quarters, that’s for sure.” As a senior, McCullough became Ankeny’s No. 1 receiver and blossomed into a star, leading all of Class 5A in receiving yards. He caught 55 passes for 935 yards and 13 touchdowns, setting single-season school records in all three categories. He had eight receptions for 128 yards and three touchdowns in another win over Dowling. He caught nine passes for 146 yards and three scores in a victory over Des Moines Roosevelt, then had eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in a 38-35 loss at Valley. Ankeny won its next six games before falling to Southeast Polk, 24-7, in a title-game rematch. “We just struggled getting first downs on offense the whole night and that was our goal–just getting first downs and marching down the field to score,” said McCullough, who had 73 of his 87 receiving yards in the first half. “They did a lot of different things. They brought that outside linebacker a lot and that kind of affected our run game a lot because we’re just more a spread out offense, but there’s a lot of things I wish I could have done and our whole team could have done differently on the offensive side of the ball, but they just had a better game than us. They took advantage of our mistakes.” Still, McCullough left Ankeny with a championship ring. “Obviously, one of my favorite memories is winning the 2020 state title and being able to play and be a part of one of the best teams in Ankeny football history. I also will never forget my senior season and as a team being able to play in back-to-back state championship games and being able to accomplish things that many people thought we wouldn’t be able to and doing that with my best friends and people I have known all of my life,” said McCullough, who was named to the Elite all-state team. He was recruited by Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern, North Dakota State, Yale, South Dakota State and others, but elected to follow in the footsteps of his sister Sara, who played for the Northern Iowa women’s basketball team. He is now a freshman receiver for the Panthers. His late father, Matt, was an all-state defensive lineman at Ankeny in 1989 (see below).
Matt Whitaker, TE: A standout in four sports at Ankeny, he was a three-year varsity football player in the 1980s, becoming the first sophomore to play an entire varsity season under Pezzetti. He was a two-time all-conference running back and was named to the Elite all-state team as a senior in 1987 as a linebacker. He was a two-way player that season for the Hawks, rushing for over 700 yards and nearly 5 yards per carry as well as being one of the team’s top defenders with 64 solo tackles. He received prep all-American honors from USA Today. He finished his high school career as an 11-time letterwinner, and he was also a National Honor Society student. Whitaker then went on to become a three-year letterwinner at Iowa, where he was moved to tight end to utilize his blocking ability. He played in the 1991 Rose Bowl and was a three-time all-Big Ten academic selection. In 1992, he was named an academic all-American and was the Big Ten Medal of Honor winner for displaying excellence in scholarship and athletic achievement. He was the recipient of a post-graduate academic scholarship from the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors after completing his undergraduate degree in 3 1/2 years and played his fourth season with the Hawkeyes while in graduate business school. He received his MBA in 1995 followed by his law degree. He served for many years as a United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. In recent years, he served as the acting United States Attorney General for more than three months under then-President Donald Trump. In 2009, Whitaker became the first of only two Ankeny players to be enshrined in the Iowa High School Athletic Association Football Hall of Fame.
Matt Hulbert, OL: He was a three-year starter at Ankeny from 2003-05, racking up 50 super blocks in his career. As a sophomore, he made nine super blocks while helping teammate Andy Brodell surpass the 2,000-yard rushing mark. In 2004, he made 21 super blocks. Then, as a senior, he led the team with 20 super blocks, five of them in a quarterfinal loss to Dowling Catholic. He helped pave the way for an offensive attack that rushed for 3,210 yards and racked up 201 first downs, which were the third-best totals in school history at the time. He was named to the Elite all-state team. Hulbert went on to play at Iowa State, where he was a letterwinner for the Cyclones in 2007-08. He then transferred to Western Illinois to complete his career with the Leathernecks.
Joe Kingston, OL: He was a three-year starter who helped Ankeny to a 30-6 record from 2020-22. As a sophomore, he helped the team to an average of 43.5 points per game as the Hawks won their final 10 games to capture the Class 4A state title. “I was just a little sophomore who felt like he was on top of the world, playing every snap right next to some lifelong friends,” Kingston said. “Starting on that team was definitely an adjustment for me. The change from freshman year to sophomore year was huge. I went from sitting in the stands and watching games to playing right next to some of the state’s greatest players. I was fortunate enough to win the championship with that group of outstanding guys.” In 2021, he was named to the all-state second team after Ankeny again reached the championship game before falling to Southeast Polk in the Class 5A final. As a senior, he anchored the offensive line for a team that reached the Class 5A quarterfinals. He was selected to the all-state first team. “One of my favorite memories from my career would probably have to be the long, grueling summer mornings,” Kingston said. “Showing up at 6 a.m. to grind it out in the weight room and then go attack whatever we had planned for practice right after was the most fun, especially with the guys I played with from my sophomore year to the end of my senior year. Those guys like Justice Miller, Tyler Campbell, Antonio Espino, Drew Monsivais and Ryan Maire made it so much more fun and memorable.”
Xavier Quigley, OL: He was a two-year starter and starred as a tackle on Ankeny’s state championship team in 2012, earning all-state third-team honors after helping the Hawks to a 14-0 record. He was credited with nine super blocks by the AHS coaching staff. “Aside from winning the state title, my favorite memories from football season have to be our O-Line dinners,” Quigley said. “Every Wednesday after practice we would eat dinner at one of our houses. Our parents and grandparents would prep this huge dinner. We’d eat and just chill, take our minds off football for an hour or two.” That Ankeny team scored more than 40 points in nine of its first 11 games, including 63 in a blowout victory at Sioux City North. The Hawks had only three games decided by a touchdown or less. They got a late score to beat Dowling Catholic, 35-28, then rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit the following week to top Southeast Polk, 28-21. In the Class 4A final, Ankeny posted a 23-17 victory over Cedar Rapids Xavier. “I’m not saying we should have lost those (first two) games, but when you have close games like that, all it takes is a fumble here or an interception there to swing the game the other way,” Pezzetti said at the time. “But we did play the best teams on our side of the state, and that prepared us for the Xavier game.” Quigley said he still remembers the name of the play that produced quarterback Joel Lanning’s game-winning touchdown run against Xavier. “We ran ’12 Jet Trap’ to score–a play call I’m sure all five of us offensive linemen will never forget,” he said. “Watching that play and seeing Joel lay in the end zone with his hands in the air will forever give me chills.” Quigley went on to play for Iowa Western Community College, earning all-conference honors in 2014 on a squad that went 11-1 and advanced to the NJCAA national championship game. He then transferred to Akron of the Mid-American Conference, where he was a two-year letterwinner on the offensive line and played in 24 games from 2016-17. He embarked on his coaching career in 2019, becoming a graduate assistant for the Zips. He then returned to his native Iowa to become a graduate assistant for Iowa State’s offense in 2020-21. The Cyclones produced one of the most prolific offenses in the history of Iowa State football in 2020 with the second-best scoring offense (32.9) and third-best total offense (436.3) totals in school history. Iowa State finished the regular season in first place in the final Big 12 standings, made the Big 12 championship game and qualified for a New Year’s Six bowl for the first time in school history, capping off the season with a 34-17 victory over Oregon in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. He just finished his third season with the Iowa State program and his first as assistant director of player personnel. “Man, what an honor to be on the all-time team,” Quigley said. “It means a lot!”
Wil Simpkins, OL: He was a two-year starter at center for Ankeny in 2011-12, helping the Hawks to a 25-2 record while playing alongside Quigley during that stretch. As a junior, he was credited with a team-high nine super blocks by the AHS coaching staff as his squad went 11-2, matching the school record for most wins. Then, in 2012, he again led Ankeny with 18 super blocks as the Hawks set a new school mark by winning 14 games while capturing the Class 4A state title and completing the only undefeated season in the modern era. Ankeny set a school record by averaging 43.5 points per game and led Class 4A in total offense with 6,521 yards. “I think the biggest part of our success as a line was our ability to work together as one unit. All of us were friends and are still friends to this day,” Simpkins said. “We spent a lot of time in the offseason training and working out together, and I think that paid large dividends on the field. Seeing each other put in work off the field as well as on the field keeps everyone accountable. No one wanted to be the weak link so we all pushed each other to work hard and to get the most out of one another. The camaraderie, hard work, and accountability of our line is what bred our success I think.” The Hawks, who averaged 8.7 yards per play and scored 81 touchdowns, broke the previous school record for total offense by more than 700 yards. Ankeny also set new marks for most first downs (289) and passing yards (2,476). The Hawks rushed for 4,045 yards, the second-highest total in school history. “With the talent that we had in our line and on our offense, we thought we could move the ball and score a lot of points,” Pezzetti said at the time. Simpkins was named to the all-state first team. He was also a two-time all-conference pick. “My favorite memories are thinking back on all the support we had from the community and families of the team,” Simpkins said. “We had moms and grandparents that would cook the linemen weekly dinners–another example of our line being a tight-knit group. Each week we always had a team dinner provided for us and after each home game we had postgame meals. Every game we had full stadiums. On our way out of town on the way to the state championship, the community lined the streets leaving town. We had a full UNI-Dome and a full gym at the rally when we got back. So in short, the overall support of the team from the families and community is my favorite memory of that season.”
Aaron Tjarks, OL: As a senior in 2006, he helped Ankeny to an 8-3 record. The Hawks lost three games by a total of seven points, including a pair of three-point losses to Southeast Polk on the game’s final play. He helped the team to 4,213 yards of total offense, the fourth-highest total in school history at the time. Tjarks was credited with 17 super blocks. “Our offense was one of the best we’ve ever had,” Pezzetti said. “We really put things together at the right time.” Tjarks was named to the Elite all-state team. “Walking through the home gates at Ankeny Stadium as an Ankeny Hawk football player for coach Pezzetti’s team was a childhood dream of mine,” he said. “I remember living that dream and tapping the ramp signs before games, like so many did before me. I remember playing in coach Pezzetti’s 300th career win. I remember coach Fontana, coach Becker and coach Raz developing us both on and off the field. Two of my favorite memories as an Ankeny player include our dominating win against Dowling and beating an undefeated Newton team in the playoffs.” Tjarks went on to play at Truman State from 2007-12. He started the last three years at guard and tackle. “What an incredible honor to be on this team,” Tjarks said. “The Ankeny program meant so much to me and is near and dear to my heart.” After graduating from Truman State, Tjarks returned to Ankeny and became an assistant coach under Pezzetti–first for the Hawks and then at Centennial. “I had the opportunity to coach during Ankeny’s 2012 championship season,” Tjarks said. “My favorite memory as an Ankeny coach was our come-from-behind win in the championship game, where our kids (and the entire town) came together as one. The teams I played on and coached knew that being an Ankeny Hawk football player was special, and we were part of something bigger than ourselves. I am thankful that my teammates and I could be a part of it.”
Kyle Schlicher, PK: He emerged as a potential star as a sophomore at Ankeny in 1999, when he converted all 35 of his PAT attempts while helping the Hawks to a 6-3 record. He kicked a 41-yard field goal in a win at Sioux City Heelan, and he booted 22 kickoffs out of the end zone. He was a unanimous pick to the all-conference first team. “Kyle had a great year,” Pezzetti said then. “He really came through for us.” As a junior, he made 5-of-7 field goals and 45-of-48 PATs while also recording 36 touchbacks. The Hawks posted an 8-2 mark with an average winning margin of 35 points. “He’s by far the best kicker in the state,” Pezzetti said of Schlicher. In 2001, he made 48-of-49 PATs and had 56 touchbacks as Ankeny went 10-2 and reached the Class 4A semifinals. He set a CIML record with 11 field goals and was named to the Elite all-state team for the second straight year. Schlicher said he liked to challenge himself during the team’s practices–and have a little fun in the process. “I used to really enjoy hitting my fellow teammates with field goals and messing up their drills,” he said. “They thought they were far enough away from the back of the practice goal posts, so it became a challenge not only to make the field goal but to kick it far enough to hit them. (Assistant) coach (Mike) Fontana used to get really mad, but I couldn’t help it. I had a big leg and not a lot of space. I’m pretty sure I hit coach Fontana in the nuts one time. I guess they ultimately put up with it because I helped score a lot of points.” Schlicher also recalled that his powerful leg made it difficult for the kickoff return team to get reps during practice. “We would have to keep backing up because I kept kicking the football through the uprights, not allowing them to get a return,” he said. Schlicher then went on to play for Iowa, where he was a three-year letterwinner from 2004-06 and scored 257 points during that stretch. In 2004, he had a career-best 21 field goals and also converted 29 PATs. As a junior, he connected on 17 field goals and 43 PATs for a career-best 94 points. He was a second-team all-Big Ten selection and was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. In 2006, he made 13 field goals and 32 PATs in his final season. “My favorite memory of all is simply contributing in a productive way, and seeing the joy and passion on the faces of my coaches and teammates,” he said. “I grew up a big soccer fan, so football was still very new, but it opened up a huge opportunity for me to be a part of something great with my friends. We still tell stories and jokes to this day.” Schlicher was the kicker for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League in 2011.
Matt McCullough, DL: As a junior at Ankeny in 1988, he helped the Hawks to a 6-4 record and a playoff berth. In 1989, he was one of the standouts for the first Ankeny squad to reach the Class 4A semifinals. In the quarterfinals, Ankeny posted a 27-14 win over Des Moines East in a game where the two teams combined for more than 600 yards on the ground. However, McCullough and the Hawks’ defensive unit made a huge stand when it was needed the most. Late in the third quarter, the Scarlets drove to Ankeny’s 1-yard line and threatened to tie the score at 21. But Ankeny got a fourth-down stop, then drove 99 yards on the ensuing possession to seal the victory. “That defensive effort made the difference in the game,” Pezzetti said at the time. Ankeny then lost to Sioux City Heelan, 21-7, in the semifinals. McCullough was named to the all-state second team. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 48 after a courageous five-year battle against sarcoma cancer. His daughter, Sara, was a basketball star at Ankeny who was earlier named to the Ankeny Fanatic all-time Ankeny girls’ basketball team. His son, Brady, was a receiver on Ankeny’s state championship team in 2020 (see above). It seems appropriate that Matt and Brady should be on the same all-time squad.
Ross Naylor, DL: He was a two-way standout who helped Ankeny to back-to-back 11-2 seasons in 2007-08. As a junior, he made 65 tackles and had a team-high nine sacks. “Jerry suggested that we move Naylor from linebacker to defensive line, and he made an immediate impact as a disruptor at the line of scrimmage,” said Mike Fontana, a longtime assistant coach under Pezzetti at Ankeny and Centennial. “His strength, quickness and his ability to get off the ball was phenomenal.” He also rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries as a fullback who specialized in getting the tough yards in short-yardage situations. Ankeny advanced to the Class 4A championship game before falling to Bettendorf, 21-16. He had a 2-yard scoring run and made five tackles in the contest. In 2008, Naylor helped the Hawks reach the Class 4A semifinals before dropping a 21-14 decision to eventual champion Valley. Ankeny built a 14-0 lead before the Tigers rallied. “They had a lot of players out there,” Naylor said at the time. “I was getting tired, and I know the other guys were. Things could have turned out better, but we gave it our best shot and you really can’t ask for anything more. We had a great season.” Naylor rushed for 900 yards and 16 touchdowns, including 223 yards and three scores in a 48-7 win at Johnston. The Hawks set a pair of school records at that time with 5,792 total yards and 4,625 rushing yards, leading all Class 4A teams in those categories. He placed sixth on the team with 61 tackles, including four for losses, and recovered two fumbles. He was named to the Elite all-state team and was selected the CIML defensive player of the year by The Des Moines Register. Naylor went on to play at Wartburg College, where he was a starting nose guard for four years and a team captain for the Knights. He earned all-conference honors in each of his last two seasons. “I’m honored to be part of this group,” Naylor said.
Ted Ortale, DL: As a senior in 1983, he helped Ankeny to an 8-1 record and a third consecutive conference title. The Hawks dominated their first six opponents, holding their first five foes to a combined 23 points. After suffering a 26-20 overtime loss to Fort Dodge, Ankeny defeated Newton for the first time ever, 7-3, to capture their first outright league crown. The Hawks closed out the season with an impressive 28-14 win over Metro Conference champion Valley, but they were left out of the playoff field. “We had an outstanding effort, our attitude was excellent, and we had the desire to reach our goal,” Pezzetti said at the time. Ortale was named to the all-state first team. He went on to enjoy a solid career at South Dakota State. Ortale later became an assistant high school football coach in Las Vegas. His son, Jake, played at Iowa State.
Jorden Studer, DL: As a senior at Ankeny in 2011, he helped the Hawks to an 11-2 record. He placed second on the team with 96 tackles, including six for losses and three sacks. He had a career-high 16 stops in a 28-13 win over Urbandale. He caused one fumble and led the team with three batted-down passes and two blocked kicks while racking up a team-high 140 Bandit points. “Jorden made a huge leap from his junior to senior year,” said Fontana, who coached him on the defensive line. “He really stood out in our big games when he was a senior.” Studer was named to the Elite all-state team and was The Des Moines Register’s CIML defensive player of the year. “My favorite game would have to be our quarterfinal game against Southeast Polk,” Studer said. “Our rivalry with them was big, and there was a lot of talk leading up to that game. Winning that and having my last play ever on the Ankeny football field being a sack and fumble to secure our trip to the UNI-Dome will always be memorable.” Studer was a rare athlete who excelled both on the gridiron and in the water–he was a talented swimmer as well. He was earlier named to the Ankeny Fanatic all-time Ankeny boys’ swimming team. A two-time state placewinner in the 100 breaststroke, he elected to give up swimming as a senior in order to focus on football–a sport that he went on to play at Iowa State. “Football will always play a big part in my life,” Studer said. “First off, Tunes (Fontana) was pretty much a second father to me throughout high school and still is. He understood me and how to make me better more than anyone else ever did. Ever since I moved back to Ankeny, I wanted to be able to give back on all the positives that football gave me which is why I started coaching Centennial’s freshman defensive line as well as helping out the varsity. Now that I have a 9-month-old son too, it brings a whole new meaning to setting up the future for the town and the school for when he grows up and can hopefully experience the same things I did when I went through the system.”
Tanner Clayberg, LB: He was the leader of Ankeny’s defensive unit as a senior in 2012, when he helped the Hawks to the state title. He set a single-season school record with 147 tackles, including 17 stops in a 42-7 win over Johnston and 20 in the championship game against Cedar Rapids Xavier. He had four tackles for losses and three sacks. He also blocked two kicks and recovered two fumbles, leading the team in both of those categories. He led the Hawks’ Bandit point chart with 191 points, the second-highest total in school history. He was named to the Elite all-state team. After giving up a total of 90 points in the first four games, Ankeny held its next five opponents to an average of 10.2 points. The Hawks then allowed an average of 11.2 points in their five-game playoff run to the championship. As a junior, Clayberg made 23 tackles for an Ankeny team that posted two shutouts and held four other opponents to seven points or less. Clayberg briefly went on to play for Northern Iowa.
Eric Kluver, LB: He was a standout tackler who recorded 92 stops as a junior in 1989, when he helped Ankeny to a 10-2 record and its first appearance in the Class 4A semifinals. Then, as a senior, he racked up 130 tackles in just 10 games. He recorded double-digit tackles nine times, including 19 in a 20-17 overtime win at Fort Dodge. He had 14 stops in four other games. He set a single-season school record for tackles, and he set another mark with 175 Bandit points–which grades the players on their overall performance. He was named to the all-state first team. “My favorite memory is being a part of the first semifinal team in Ankeny history,” Kluver said. “But I’m most proud of our team in 1990. We returned four starters and went 8-2, losing to (eventual state runner-up) Newton twice in close games.” Kluver also recalled how the Hawks dealt with a difficult situation. “The leadership of our coaches and the determination of our team to overcome adversity when our friend and teammate suffered a traumatic brain injury on the field is something I’ll never forget,” Kluver said. “You learn a lot about people during tough times, and to this day I am so proud of how our team rallied together to support Matt Hanke.” Kluver went on to play at Mankato State, where he was joined on the Mavericks’ roster by a trio of his Ankeny teammates–Aaron Baugher, Mike Kayser and Tony Medici. He was the recipient of the Maverick Achievement Award in 1995. He is now a successful head coach at Indianola, where he has posted an 89-96 record in 19 seasons at the school. The Indians went 7-4 this season and reached the Class 4A quarterfinals before dropping a 23-6 decision at Cedar Rapids Xavier. Three of Kluver’s wins have come at the expense of Pezzetti, including back-to-back victories in the last two seasons.
Jeff Lanning, LB: He was one of the best two-way players to ever play for Pezzetti, helping Ankeny to three straight trips to the Class 4A semifinals from 2002-04. As a sophomore, he rushed for 578 yards and seven touchdowns on 95 carries. He made 22 tackles and intercepted two passes on defense. “Our speed and quickness is what made us successful,” Pezzetti said at the time. “We weren’t very big on defense, but our kids played hard.” In 2003, Lanning led the team with 106 tackles and had 10 or more tackles six times, including a career-high 16 in a 32-28 victory over Dowling, when he also scored the winning touchdown on a 9-yard pass from Trent Jones with about 4 minutes left. He ran 60 times for 363 yards and four scores. The Hawks won their first nine games by an average of 28 points and went undefeated during the regular season for the first time since 1962 before finishing with an 11-1 record. “Anytime you go undefeated during the regular season, you’ve had a great year,” Pezzetti said. “It was just a great effort by the team and by the coaches.” As a senior, Lanning helped Ankeny to its third straight CIML Central Conference title. The Hawks claimed the crown with a 13-6 victory at Southeast Polk in the final game of the regular season, handing the Rams their first defeat. “Our kids stayed in there, never gave up and had a great season,” Pezzetti said. “I’m very proud of what they accomplished.” Lanning injured his knee during a 42-38 win over Dowling in the first round of the playoffs, ending his high school career. He recorded 70 tackles and two interceptions. On offense, he rushed for 547 yards, caught nine passes for 198 yards and led the team with 13 touchdowns. He also averaged 29.0 yards on 11 kickoff returns. He was named to the Elite all-state team. Lanning was also a baseball star who went on to play that sport in college at Nebraska and New Orleans, and he eventually played for four years in the minor leagues. He was earlier named to the Ankeny Fanatic all-time Ankeny baseball team. In 2006, he was named the No. 45 greatest athlete in Ankeny High School history by the Ankeny Register & Press Citizen. His younger brother, Joel, was the star quarterback on Ankeny’s 2012 state championship team.
Ryan Crandall, DB: He was a three-year varsity starter who racked up 158 tackles and 11 interceptions in his career at Ankeny from 2019-21. He had 39 tackles and a team-high five picks as a sophomore, including one that he returned for a touchdown. In 2020, he placed third on the squad with 55 tackles while helping the Hawks to the state title. He again led the team with three interceptions, including a nifty diving grab during the Class 4A final against Southeast Polk. As a senior, Crandall placed second on the squad with 64 tackles and had a team-high 43 solo stops while also picking off three passes. He saw some action at receiver on offense, catching seven passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. He also averaged 24 yards on seven kickoff returns, including one for a 76-yard score. He helped Ankeny to a runner-up finish in Class 5A and was named to the all-state first team. “A couple memories that stick in my head are how much more playing football for the Hawks made me close with my childhood friends,” Crandall said. “When we really knew how good we could be when we got into high school, we all kind of came together and really bonded and it showed in our successful seasons. I reflect on those days all of the time. We still text in our team group chat a lot just about the sport that we all loved playing. And football is all something that we can relate to so it’s so easy to talk about. What I really miss is just little stuff like going out to eat with the team after practices, or the team dinners we’d have Sunday nights after the Friday games. Some of the funniest memories were made during that time. It was just such a special experience due to the fact that everyone knew what we were capable of, and we’d go out every Friday night having each other’s back just having fun and flying around.” Crandall was one of the best all-around athletes in Ankeny’s history. He earned third-team all-state honors in baseball as a junior, then earned third-team honors as well in basketball in the 2021-22 season, becoming a rare athlete to be recognized in all three of the major team sports. Crandall initially committed to play football at Minnesota State, but then changed his mind after Western Illinois and Northern Iowa–a pair of NCAA Division I FCS schools–came in with late offers. He signed with the Leathernecks. “It was a hard decision, but it’s always been a dream of mine to play at the highest level I can possibly play at,” Crandall said. He has already made an impact as a freshman, playing in eight of the team’s 11 games and contributing 29 tackles with a pair of fumble recoveries. He had a breakout game in his team’s 28-27 loss to Youngstown State on Oct. 22, when he made 10 tackles, recovered a fumble and returned an interception 32 yards. He also had 10 tackles the following week in a loss at Missouri State, including three for losses.
Jared Goforth, DB: Growing up in Ankeny, Goforth always dreamed of playing for a state championship. “Before even playing school ball, I remember the 1997 team and the state title they brought home,” he said. “The legend of coach Pezzetti had already taken off at that time. As a kid in the community, you wanted to do what that ’97 team did.” He eventually became a two-way standout who helped Ankeny to back-to-back 11-2 seasons in 2007-08. As a junior, he led the squad with 92 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries as the Hawks advanced to the Class 4A final before falling to Bettendorf. His interception sealed Ankeny’s 14-7 win over Valley in the semifinals, punching the Hawks’ ticket to the title game. “It was just an unreal feeling listening to the crowd cheer in the UNI-Dome to put your team in the state championship,” Goforth said. As a senior, he placed fifth on the squad with 69 tackles and had a team-high six interceptions as Ankeny again reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Valley. “We had just made the state title game with a lot of seniors starting on the ’07 team,” Goforth said. “We weren’t really expected to live up to the expectations of that team, but our ’08 team lost one game and made it back to the Dome. More specifically, our quarterfinal win at Ames was one I’ll remember. It was a cold night with snow flurries and just a tough battle. That win got us back to the Dome, which is such a cool place to play because of how loud it can get with the enclosure.” Goforth also rushed for 873 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 80 carries. He caught five passes for 244 yards and another score, and he completed 2-of-3 passes for 91 yards on trick plays. He also led the team in both kickoff and punt returns. He was selected to the all-state first team. Goforth said he has a lot of memories of playing for Pezzetti. “I remember how he could get a team amped up during a pregame speech,” he said. “He was usually soft spoken for the most part and pretty level-headed by the time I played, but that man knew how to push the right buttons during a pregame speech to have us ready to do anything to win a game. Also, after every win when the team would gather we’d chant ‘Jerry, Jerry, Jerry,’ and he’d give us a quick synopsis on how we played.” Goforth went on to become a standout at Morningside, where he was a three-time all-American for the Mustangs, including an AFCA first-team pick as a senior. He helped Morningside to the NAIA national championship game in 2012. The Mustangs lost to Marian (Ind.), 30-27, in overtime. “I was fortunate to be on some good teams,” Goforth said. “That was the farthest Morningside had made it in the playoffs to that point, which we were very proud of. Since then, that’s almost been the standard for Morningside.” The Mustangs have won three NAIA crowns in the last five years.
Jamison Patton, DB: He starred as a dual-threat quarterback at Des Moines Roosevelt before transferring to Ankeny for his senior season in 2022. As a junior, he helped the Roughriders to a 5-4 record. He completed 99-of-183 passes for 1,278 yards and 14 touchdowns while being intercepted three times. He also rushed for 548 yards and seven scores on 110 carries. On defense, he made 23 tackles and intercepted a pass. He was a second-team all-state pick. He passed for 85 yards and a touchdown in the Roughriders’ 49-6 loss at Ankeny, then joined the Hawks’ program the following spring. “I felt I wasn’t getting developed the way I needed to be ready for the next level with the new coaching staff we had last year, and Ankeny has a great program and a great coaching staff that will get me ready for the next level,” Patton said at the time. “I feel this is a great opportunity to showcase my athleticism. Since I wasn’t getting recruited as a (quarterback), I felt it was best for me to start focusing on safety and getting comfortable at the position since I haven’t been playing safety as my main position.” At Ankeny, Patton starred on both sides of the ball as the Hawks posted a 9-2 record. They reached the quarterfinals of the Class 5A playoffs before dropping a 23-13 decision to Johnston. On defense, he made 37 tackles and intercepted a pair of passes. He also became the team’s leading receiver after developing some great chemistry with quarterback JJ Kohl, a fellow Iowa State commit. He caught 62 passes for 821 yards and six touchdowns. In a 17-10 win over Centennial, Patton caught eight passes for 112 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. “It was intense,” Patton said of the Jag-Hawk rivalry. “We were going at it all game.” Patton later called it the highlight of his season. “That was my favorite part of the year,” he said. “Going in knowing how important it was for the community and the guys who have grown up together that week you could tell how much everyone wanted to beat them, then to come out with the victory meant a lot and I got (awarded) MVP at the end of the game!” Patton was named to the all-state first team. He committed to play for the Cyclones in June. The three-star recruit held offers from 10 Division I schools and took visits to Iowa, Iowa State and UCLA before making his decision. “The atmosphere over there is amazing,” Patton said. “I just felt at home when I was there. The coaches are great, and the players are getting developed. The players within the program are great, I had a great time on my official visit, and I got a chance to connect with the players a lot.”
Trey Porter, DB: He joined Centennial’s varsity squad as a sophomore in 2019, when he saw some action as a reserve running back and rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries as the Jaguars went 8-1 during the regular season before losing to Urbandale, 29-28, in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs. In 2020, he ran 92 times for 582 yards and five touchdowns, including an 86-yard score in a 14-7 loss at Johnston. He also caught seven passes for 93 yards. On defense, he made seven tackles and intercepted a pass. He was named to the all-state third team. As a senior, Porter rushed for 341 yards and five touchdowns on 73 carries. He also made a big impact on defense, contributing 20.5 tackles. He intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in the Jaguars’ stunning 14-7 victory over second-ranked Ankeny, which followed a 42-13 loss at Indianola in the season opener. “We just had some small mistakes that we had to fix,” Porter said. “They thought they were No. 2, but we proved them wrong. We played great defense. (We’re an) army of 11 right here.” Porter batted down a pass in the end zone on the game’s final play to preserve the win. “I knew exactly where it was going,” Porter said of the pass from Kohl, his former teammate. “JJ’s eyes–he looked straight to the receiver (Brady McCullough). I was backpedaling and I looked up and saw the ball, and I did what I do. I knocked it down.” Porter was a repeat pick to the all-district first team and was also selected to the all-state second team. He graduated at the semester and enrolled early at Northern Illinois, where he sat out his first season as a redshirt. A freshman safety for the Huskies, his 2022 season was cut short due to a broken arm.
Jim Thompson, P: He was a standout running back who also excelled as a punter at Ankeny in 1981-82. As a junior, he rushed for 964 yards while averaging 37.4 yards per punt. “I remember the Thursday night dinners with teammates and driving around afterwards with Dan Rudisil in his car,” Thompson said. He helped the Hawks to the conference title. “When he came in as a junior and played a lot both as a punter and a running back, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s impressive.’ Because a lot of the juniors didn’t make the team,” said Greg Buttz, who was one of his senior teammates. “I remember working with the punt return team on catching punts, and you had to stand at least 50 yards back when Jim was punting the ball. He had a great leg, and obviously that’s what he did at Iowa State.” Thompson said he participated in the Punt, Pass and Kick competitions for years when he was younger. “I guess it just stuck,” he said of his punting prowess. In 1982, Thompson scored 90 points as Ankeny posted an 8-1 record during the regular season, losing only to Newton. The Hawks won another league crown and advanced to the playoffs for the second consecutive year, clinching a berth with a 14-13 win over Valley in their final game. Ankeny then traveled to Sioux City Heelan for its playoff opener and dropped a 22-14 decision to the eventual Class 4A state champion. The game was played in a snowstorm. Thompson was a repeat pick to the all-conference first team and was also named to the all-state second team. He was also selected to play in the Shrine Bowl. “Having the opportunity to visit the kids in the hospital is something I’ll never forget,” Thompson said. “It was a loud bus ride to the hospital, but you could have heard a pin drop on the bus ride back to camp. It was pretty humbling and just an unbelievable experience.” He went on to play at Iowa State, where he punted for the Cyclones and was a three-time letterwinner.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Ankeny Fanatic teams were selected by publisher Dan Holm, who consulted with former and current coaches before making his picks.)