It seems the great ones are always humble.
Pete Cavanagh achieved a milestone win on the second-to-last Friday of the regular season with his 100th victory as the Mid-Prairie football coach. He has a 101-62 record after a win in the final regular-season game.
“One hundred wins means I have had some really great players and assistant coaches throughout the years,” Cavanagh said. “Players win games and we have been blessed to have some talented guys roll through Mid-Prairie.”
He doesn’t say anything about the hours he put in or the time spent watching film, debating strategy or formulating a game plan. Instead he mentions his assistants.
“I would like to thank my great coaching staff over the years: Jeff Murphy, Brian Hervey, Derek Yoder, Daren Lambert, Ryan Duwa, Mark Dalton, Justin Barthleman, Kevin Cortum, Justin Swartzendruber, Brian Miller, Traimain Johnson, Jay Bickford, Marc Pennington, Paul Kissel, Jim Cayton, Randy Billups, Pat Swancut.”
Cavanagh has spent 16 years at the Mid-Prairie helm and was a Golden Hawks assistant for five years before that. He also was an assistant at Iowa City Regina for a year and at Perry for three years before that.
In that time as head coach, he has put the Golden Hawks in the playoffs nine times (2004, 05, 06, 08, 09, 11, 12, 14, 15). Mid-Prairie had just two playoff appearances (1976, 2001), which were both losses, before Cavanagh and one of those was when he was an assistant.
Mid-Prairie’s first-ever playoff win is one of Cavanagh’s most memorable victories - a 33-7 home win over West Burlington/Notre Dame in 2004.
Another most memorable game happened four years later.
“Beating Regina in the playoffs in 2008 to go the quarterfinals because it gave us a school-record win total (10),” Cavanagh said. That was a 38-21 victory. The Golden Hawks lost to eventual state champion Solon in the quarterfinals.
Cavanagh has an 8-9 record in the Class 2A playoffs.
“The most memorable loss was 13-7 to PCM in the quarterfinals in 2006,” Cavanagh said. “Six points away from going to the Dome!”
Through all the ups and downs there is a constant.
“My favorite part of coaching is the relationships you build with the players and coaches, then staying in contact with former players,” Cavanagh said. “The worst part of coaching is seeing players get injured and missing out on playing football.”
Cavanagh is the social studies teacher at the high school.
“I played quarterback at Grinnell High School (class of 91) and at Cornell College (class of 95),” Cavanagh said. “I was influenced by Steve Kreigel and Jim Dunne, my high school coaches. They taught me about how to compete and gave me a model for a successful high school program. Steve Miller, my college coach, taught me leadership.”
When you have coached for 16 years, there are a lot of memories to sort through.
“We have had some great teams,” Cavanagh said. “The 2004 district champions, our first playoff team, 2005 (quarterfinals), 2006 (quarterfinals, group of overachievers), 2008 (probably the most talented team we ever had, lost in quarterfinals to eventual state champions - Solon), 2013 (state quarterfinals, great senior class), and 2015 (won playoff game at PCM).
“There have been too many great players to mention only a few.”