Woodbury Central's Maker Coach of Year

Woodbury Central's Maker Coach of Year

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Born to the purple?

In this case, no.

When it comes time to analyze the character and demeanor of Kelly Manker, it won't take but a few minutes -- a New York nanosecond at times -- to discover in no uncertain terms that he was born to the blue.

Yes, The Sioux City Journal's 2006 Siouxland Football Coach of the Year is a Woodbury Central High School blueblood through and through.

"Kelly bleeds blue as much as red," says Steve Shanks, the Woodbury Central principal. "He means so much to our school, not just the football team."

It just so happens that Woodbury Central's school colors are blue and red.

The hard-working and industrious Manker is honored today as the 56th recipient of The Journal's football coaching award after guiding the Wildcats to the school's first postseason playoff berth since they won it all in 1980.

Manker has worked countless hours to return the proud program to the glory days when, in 1980, he quarterbacked the school to Iowa's Class 1A state championship.

This season, in his 12th year at the helm, Manker directed the Wildcats to eight straight victories and a No. 5 state ranking before they lost a regular-season finale to No. 1-ranked Manning (37-14) and then a first-round Class A playoff contest to eventual state champion Manilla IKM (49-14).

At season's end, IKM and Manning, which dealt IKM its only loss, were arguably the two best Class A teams in the state.

Rick Dietz, Manker's high school coach, remembers his championship quarterback as an overchiever who willed his teammates to victory after victory.

"Kelly was one of those kids who might not have been blessed with the greatest talent and skills, but you couldn't convince him of that," recalls Dietz, who now lives in Indianola. "He might not have been the fastest or the strong-armed thrower, but he always found a way.

"We had some great athletes on that championship team, guys like Kelly, Todd Tabke, Gary Chesley, Mike Weaver and several others.

"If there were times when it seemed liked we didn't have the fire and drive, it was Kelly Manker who provided the spirit. He made things go for us.

"If we weren't clicking on all cylinders and weren't playing very well, it was Kelly who also seemed to make the big play.

"Back then, some of those attributes we're showing that makes him an outstanding coach.

"I remember clearly a play in our semifinal win over Treynor (19-13) when we had a third down and long, 14 yards, late in the game and he made the first down that helped us win the game.

"As a player ,he had that fire you also need to have to be a successful coach."

Manker's 8-2 season increased his career won-lost record at the school to 60-49 and the banner campaign follows a grand restructuring after the 2005 team rallied from a 0-3 start to finish 5-4.

"Kelly Manker is a Wildcat through and through," says Shanks, the former head baseball coach at Sioux City East. "He's an excellent choice for coach of the year.

"You couldn't ask for a coach to be more devoted than Kelly to his team, his school and his community.

"He's a high energy guy who loves Woodbury Central. He's been in the uniform before and he knows how to inspire and motivate kids.

"There's nothing this guy wouldn't do for you. If somebody needs help moving or something like that, Kelly will round up some students and they'll go help out.

"He's just a huge asset to our school and, on top of everything, of course, he's an excellent coach. We're fortunate that Kelly decided to return here to team and coach.

"Kelly does an incredible number of things for our school. He's up there every morning to open the weight room at 6 o'clock, then teaches physical education classes, coaches and he also runs our concession stands."

Then, of couse, there's family duties, tending to the parenting of daughter Kalynn.

Before Manker returned to Iowa in the early 1990s, he taught and coached in Kansas, Arizona and Texas.

"The thing that impresses me most about Kelly, though, is that he's a demanding guy who expects the kids to be good citizens of good character and represent Woodbury Central High School with pride," adds Shanks.

Manker's Wildcats opened the season in impressive fashion, shutting out their first three foes and allowing just one touchdown in the first four games.

A swarming defense shut down Le Mars Gehlen Catholic (23-0), Lawton-Bronson (14-0) and River Valley (22-0) before a 54-7 cruise past West Monona.

Manker's team followed with wins over Galva-Holstein (21-14), Kingsley-Pierson (48-2), Marcus MMC (21-10) and Westwood (41-0) before losing to Manning in the regular-season finale and then to Manilla IKM in the playoffs.

The team showcased a stingy defense and a potent offense built around quarterback Jeremy Rogers, tall receivers Landon Wright (6-5) and Nathan Campell (6-4) and rugged running backs Seth Lloyd (6-2, 195) and Josiah Sweer (6-1, 210).

Rogers passed for almost 1,700 yards while Lloyd hammered out nearly 1,000 rushing yards and Wright and Campbell combined for nearly 1,200 receiving yards.

Note: The criteria used in selecting The Journal's coach of the year carries two major restrictions. Coaches serving in their first year at a school and previous winners are not eligible.

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