ROCK VALLEY, Iowa -- He inherited some coaching genes, to be sure, but for Cory Brandt, there are far more important things than wins and losses or X's and O's.
"Cory could care less about a lot of the other stuff, as long as the kids he coaches show good character," said Jeff Meyn, the athletic director at Boyden-Hull High School. "The biggest thing that I have seen from Cory is his love for kids.
"He stresses character and faith all of the time. He wants them to grow as a person and is such a great role model. I can't say enough about how he communicates with those kids."
The 40-year-old Brandt, who guided the co-op program between Boyden-Hull and Rock Valley to the Iowa Class 2A state championship game, is honored today as 59th recipient of The Sioux City Journal's Siouxland Football Coach of the Year.
It truly was a storybook season for Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, which had lost all five of its previous state playoff games. The Nighthawks completed a 9-0 regular season, then won four more in the postseason before falling to Solon in the 2A title game.
Solon, arguably one of the top programs the state has ever produced, became the first 2A school to win three consecutive state championships. Led by University of Iowa recruit James Morris, the Spartans defeated B-H/RV 38-7.
To reach the championship game, however, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley dusted off East Sac County 42-20, Sheldon 40-6, Hull Western Christian 41-6 and IKM-Manning 35-7.
Led by all-state quarterback Josh Vander Maten and a stable of talented receivers, the Nighthawks finished with a 13-1 overall record.
Vander Maten completed 143 of 238 passes for 2,492 yards and 29 touchdowns while Nate Van Ginkel (36), Marcus Heemstra (30) and Jordan Dykstra (27) combined for 93 catches and 1,688 yards.
Heemstra and Dykstra, a pair of 6-foot-9 athletes and South Dakota State University basketball recruits, were teammates on Rock Valley's Class 1A state championship basketball team last season. Vander Maten is a four-year starter at point guard for Boyden-Hull.
"Those kids get along so well together and a lot of that has to do with Cory," said Meyn. "That's what makes our agreement one of the best in the state. The kids don't care where they're from, they just want to play and get better and that's a tribute to Cory and his staff."
Boyden-Hull and Rock Valley, by the way, also share track and baseball. Brandt, in fact, is the boys track co-head coach.
"Football is important to Cory, but teaching them about life's lessons is just as important," said Mike Elgersma, the athletic director at Rock Valley. "Yes, he's a great coach, but also a great role model. He teaches kids a lot of life's lessons through the game of football.
"Football has a lot of challenges and so does life, and Cory has tried to tie the two together."
Brandt, whose father, Barry, the athletic director at Northwestern College, coached a state championship team at Glidden-Ralston in 1975, has a 75-43 record in 12 seasons as the head football coach. In 15 total seasons as a head coach, counting three at Burke, S.D., Brandt is 90-53 overall.
"I've taken so much away from the lessons I've learned from Cory," said Heath Swanson, who's coached alongside Brandt for 12 seasons. "It's not necessarily the lessons on the field, but it's the character lessons.
"He wants you to be the best man and the best father you could possibly be. He's influenced me to be the best Christian I can be, so I owe him my life.
"It does mean a lot for him to win games and he's put in a lot of time and sweat equity, so to see him be rewarded this season was very pleasing to us as assistants."
Swanson, the football defensive coordinator, is the head boys basketball coach at Rock Valley.
Until this season, the 20th-year sharing program had trouble escaping the imposing shadow of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, another highly successful sharing program. CL/GL-R reached the 2A title game three straight years, winning the 2006 crown before losing to Solon each of the last two seasons.
The 1987 Maurice-Orange City High School and 1992 Northwestern College graduate teaches high school biology at Rock Valley High School.
Cory and his wife, Susan, are the parents of three daughters, Katie (freshman), Brianna (5th grade) and Megan (transitional kindergarten).