Watching the Anamosa and Monticello football teams battle it out on the field in yet another nail-biter Friday, Oct. 8, brought back a lot of memories for me, and made me realize just how special this contest has been the last few years.
Win or lose.
It seems each and every time the Raiders and Panthers play, it’s a game that comes right down to the final possession, and going back into the history books, that’s been exactly the case with Anamosa winning the last nail-biter in 2019, which allowed the Raiders to hang on to the coveted Cowbell for two seasons, as the two rivals didn’t play each other in 2020 due to COVID. It marked the first time since 1921 Anamosa and Monticello hadn’t played each other in football as a huge snowstorm called that contest off 90 years ago.
We don’t need to go all the way back to 1921 to talk about Anamosa-Monticello history, as before the Raiders’ 21-13 victory in 2019, the two programs waged in arguably the wildest stretch the longtime series has ever seen from 2015-2018.
The run began in 2015 when Anamosa rolled to a lopsided 52-28 victory, scoring more points against the Panther program than any Raider team had since 1904 (a 52-0 triumph).
That night back in 2015, Anamosa used balanced rushing from Daniel Husmann (98 yards), Jay McLean (64) and Trevor Wehling (50) while quarterback Kolin Schulte was his amazingly efficient self completing 10-of-12 passes for 191 yards and four touchdowns. Husmann grabbed three of them including a sensational 65-yarder while Tyler Zumbach snared the other score on a long 59-yard pass play.
Getting off the Cowbell rivalry for a moment, that 2015 team had one of the greatest Anamosa football campaigns of all-time rolling to a perfect 9-0 regular season record, which of course included the triumph over the Panthers, then just a week later played one of the greatest single games in school history as the top-5-ranked Raiders played at top-5 ranked Mount Vernon.
Wehling had a night that no one in attendance that evening will ever forget, as Anamosa, going against a Mustang team that included future Iowa Hawkeye and Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL Super Bowl champion Tristan Wirfs, won an electrifying 45-42 contest that saw Wehling rush for a school-record 374 yards. In a wild back and forth game that Wehling scored four touchdowns in (Anamosa rushed for 485 yards against a very stingy Mount Vernon defense while the Mustangs gained 376 yards with their passing game), the Raiders managed to walk off the field with a rare victory over a perennially power Mount Vernon program.
The win propelled Anamosa into the 2015 playoffs where the Raiders’ posted the program’s first-ever post-season triumphs dominating CMB Baxter (46-13) and Williamsburg (42-14) before once again facing Mount Vernon in the state quarter-final round, this time in Anamosa.
The Mustangs came out on top that night, ending one of the greatest single season runs in Raider history with an 11-1 overall record (another all-time program-best mark).
But back to the more recent Cowbell classics.
Just a year after Anamosa scored more points than any Raider team had since 1904, Anamosa and Monticello waged in a phenomenal game in the fall of 2016 that ended in a 38-34 Panther victory, but in my mind, there were no losers walking off the field that night.
Michael Martensen ran like a man possessed, and almost willed his team to the win rushing for 192 yards on a mere 12 carries and scored three touchdowns, including an 88-yard scamper that kept his team in it.
The two programs were back at it again in 2017, as Monticello again found a way to win taking an absolutely scintillating 42-41 decision.
Again, one of the most heart-stopping contests I have witnessed in my 26 years covering the rivalry.
Anamosa’s Matthew Walton and Logan Seeley went back-and-forth against Monticello’s Jacob Manternach and Max Keleher to see who could keep their team in the game the longest, and both sides just flat out would not go down without a fight.
Walton was incredible, not only passing for 298 yards and three touchdowns, but rushed for 148 more on 16 carries that included another score. Seeley added 97 rushing yards on 21 attempts and tallied two more Anamosa touchdowns, but again Raider fans left the game in heartbreak, but witnessed football played at its highest level in the most pressure of situations.
Little did I know, but Anamosa and Monticello did it again in 2018, providing more chills and thrills ending with the Panthers winning their third in a row in the series, 50-48.
Walton was even more spectacular than he was the year before, accounting for 512 yards of Anamosa’s offense (375 passing and 137 rushing) throwing for two touchdowns and running for three more.
Zac McLean, who would go on to earn All-State football honors that year, was huge in the receiving game hauling in eight of Walton’s passes for 179 yards while Walker Marsh had seven receptions for 145 yards of his own.
McLean, Marsh and Colton Borst all grabbed touchdown passes in what was another of the all-time greatest football games I have ever witnessed.
There’s no doubt, Anamosa has had their fair share of heartbreak when it comes to this Cowbell series, especially during that amazing 2016-2018 stretch, but to me it’s always been more about the quality of the football that was being played than it was who won it.
Yes, of course I would have much rather seen Raider players, coaches, parents and fans celebrating with the Cowbell Friday night, in each of those seasons from 2016-18, but the memories from each of those amazing contests will never fade, and will always make me proud to be an Anamosa Blue Raider fan. To me, in the big picture of things, that’s what it’s all about.