It’s tough having to replace 7.4 yards per carry and an average of two touchdowns per game, but that’s what the Pella Christian Eagles football team was faced with after losing star running back, Caleb Morgan, for the rest of the year following a week four injury in a game against Des Moines Christian. The Eagles had to scramble, and ended up giving the ball to senior Derek Van Kooten, who, following the game against Des Moines Christian, had only rushed for 39 total yards and a touchdown. What followed was a big performance against Sigourney-Keota, which saw Van Kooten rush for 214 yards on just 12 carries and scoring two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 26 yards in that game. Over the course of the rest of the season, the senior running back rushed for 562 yards and eight touchdowns, which was second to only Mason Howerzyl who carried the ball for 678 yards. Derek also led the team in receptions, with 344 yards receiving through the air and two touchdowns. Eagles head coach, Rich Kacmarysnki, said that Van Kooten stepped up big in a pinch.
“Derek is a great player, he had a great year,” Kacmarysnki said. “ When we lost Michael [Mason] and Caleb [Morgan], we became a little one-dimensional in the backfield. Obviously, we would have liked to see all three of those guys play all year long. I think that would have helped the whole team, and I think Derek would have been a little more freed up, because I think the defense was able to focus on him in the Mount Ayr game and the St. Albert’s game.”
The Eagles will lose several seniors at the conclusion of the 2012-13 school year, as they finished the football season with a 6 – 4 record.