ATHENS, Texas — The page turns Saturday night.
Last season officially becomes last season.
And Iowa Western’s national championship is a thing of the past.
The No. 4 Reivers open this season Saturday in Athens, Texas, by facing Trinity Valley in the second Battle of the Valley. Iowa Western beat the then-No. 6 Cardinals 44-20 a year ago.
But that seems like ancient history. The Reivers return three starters from the team that went 12-0 and won the NJCAA title in only the fourth season of the program’s history.
Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier enjoyed the attention that winning the title brought in the offseason. Now eight months removed from the victory against No. 2 Butler, Kan., in Cedar Falls, he’s ready to move on.
“It’s been a fun ride,” he said. “But at the other side, as a competitor, you want to see the following year. Knowing that we have a different team and we have some new guys, we want to see where we fall into the mix. Let’s move on. I’m excited to put last year behind us.”
Strohmeier said the Reivers are ready to play a game, but they still have plenty of question marks with regards to this season’s personnel. His staff was still shuffling the roster as the team departed from Council Bluffs on Wednesday.
Iowa Western has held practices at Oklahoma, North Texas and Texas Christian this week. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Last year, Trinity Valley was the preseason co-favorite in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. The Cardinals struggled to a 3-6 record and finished in a tie for last place at 1-5.
This year, they were picked fifth in the SWJCFC, one of the NJCAA’s traditionally strong leagues.
Strohmeier expects the Cardinals to be motivated by last year’s game, which started their season-long slide. And he’s still not sure what his team will be like. Its preseason meeting last week with No. 6 Hutchinson, Kan., wasn’t a full scrimmage so Saturday’s first game will be telling.
“Every first game, there’s always some concerns,” he said. “You don’t know a lot. Obviously, we know the importance of the game. But we’re also excited about the opportunity. I know they’re going to be ready to go. Our team knows how ready they’re going to be to play us.”