Nate Boland had just shredded the Cedar Rapids Washington defense for an 86-yard touchdown run this season when West High coach Brian Sauser turned to his assistants on the sideline.
“We all kind of looked at each other as coaches and were like, ‘Did we just see that right?’ ” Sauser said ” ‘Did he just do that?’
“And obviously, as the year progressed he continued to be a great running threat. He was as much of a running back as he was a quarterback.”
And because of his dual-threat capability coupled with his team’s success, Boland is the Press-Citizen’s Offensive Player of the Year in a season in which there were several worthy candidates, most notably City High senior running back Xavier Washpun and Regina junior quarterback Drew Cook.
Boland gets the nod for taking an inexperienced West offense that was perceived as far-less potent after being hit hard by graduation and lifting it to a level that was similar to the vaunted 2012 attack that featured star receivers Jeremy Morgan and Dondre Alexander and 1,000-yard rusher Ezra Reiners.
“I think that was just motivation to show that it wasn’t just my offensive weapons, it was also how I played,” said Boland, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior.
West finished 9-2 this season and was ranked among the top scoring teams in Class 4A, averaging 41.7 points per game.
Boland passed for 1,612 yards and 10 touchdowns, but it was his team-high 986 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns that really stood out. He ran a lot while playing quarterback for the West sophomore team in 2011 but was more of a passing threat as a junior while starting for the varsity team, throwing for more than 2,000 yards during the 2012 season.
“My junior year I didn’t run as much because we had all those offensive weapons that we could just get the ball to them and they could run it,” Boland said of the seniors on the 2012 team.
Boland as a junior faced the challenge of replacing former standout quarterback Charles Rogers, who now plays defensive back for Iowa State. Rogers started for nearly three full seasons and shined as a dual-threat quarterback, particularly as a runner.
Boland started for two seasons, leading West to a 19-3 record during that time.
“Of all the things, he’s a winner,” Sauser said. “He’s a great leader through a calm demeanor. He’s not a real rah-rah guy, but he’s very intelligent and very good at keeping everybody under control. And sometimes he even helped me calm down a little bit. He had a lot of composure.”
The only downside to Boland’s senior season is that it ended much sooner than he had hoped, with West losing to Bettendorf in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“It bugs me, but it’s just how things go sometimes,” Boland said. “We had plenty of opportunities to win that game and we just didn’t pull through. But I think when you look back on it, it was two great years.”
Boland now looks to the future. He’s uncertain about his plans for college other than knowing that he wants to keep playing football. He is hearing mostly from Division II schools and has been in contact with Northern Iowa.
“It’s a pretty slow process right now,” Boland said of his recruitment. “Nothing really major has happened. As of now, I’m not sure where I stand or where I’ll be going next year. I just hope it’s somewhere where I can play football.”