Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn opened the second season with a resounding 70-54 victory over Tri-Center, Neola October 22 at Hartley. The win in the First Round of the Class A Playoffs was not nearly as close as the final score indicated. The Hawks, now 7-2, led 58-14 after Kooper Ebel returned the second half kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. The starters for the Trojans narrowed the gap in the second half playing against HMS second string players.
Ebel enjoyed one of his shining moments with the return score but it was Connor Dodd who carried the load for the winners. The senior running back toted the ball 25 times for an even 300 yards and six touchdowns.
Commenting on the offensive performance, HMS head coach Jay Eilers said, “We felt like they had two tremendous linebackers and we felt like our offensive line could create a wall so those linebackers couldn’t get through it. They would have to kind of work around over the top. I know they had some kids get banged up but our offensive line is a group of young men who work tremendously hard in the weight room and at the practice fields so we put a lot of trust in those guys. We did a tremendous job rushing the ball tonight and it starts with those guys up front and then we just have two specimens back there who are athletically gifted but even better than that, better leaders and better people.”
The Hawks, on defense to start the game, couldn’t have asked for a better beginning. They forced Tri-Center into a three-and-out and then Keevyn Jacobsma blocked the Trojan punt. Gaining possession at the Tri-Center 25 yard line, HMS sent Dodd around right end and he cruised into the end zone. A failed conversion run left the Hawks in front 6-0.
After receiving the kickoff, the Trojans picked up a first down but then Ebel intercepted a pass and appeared to have taken it back for a touchdown. The interception stood but an illegal block wiped out the score. Beginning the drive at the Tri-Center 49, the Hawks called three running plays. The third one was the charm as Ebel broke tackles and then outraced the Trojan defense for a 43-yard score. He added a 2 point run for a 14-0 HMS lead.
Said Eilers, “We felt very confident in defensive recognition based on formation and based on a couple offensive linemen. We felt pretty confident on where the balls were going. Our kids practiced at an amazingly high level this week. We felt like we could come out after a punt, so to start the game with a stop defensively, a blocked punt, you couldn’t ask for anything better with our kids.” The interception and score just added to the coaches admiration of his team. “I tip my hat to our kids,” said Eilers. “We have great coaches. Our coaches do a tremendous job on film breakdown and were going to continue to try to put our kids in the best positions available and then they prove us with just making plays and doing a great job and playing Hawk football. I’m just so proud of our kids.”
Dodd added scoring runs of 24, 21, 10, 4 and 52 yards. He and the Ebel were breaking Trojan tackles all night, picking up those yards after contact. “That was something that, defensively, we weren’t giving up,” noted Eilers. “At the contact, we were putting the guy on the ground and offensively our kids kept their legs churning and just doing a tremendous job.” Ryan Borden and Ethan Diehm each added a red zone touchdown to account for the remainder of the HMS scoring.
Junior back Michael Turner was the Tri-Center offense. He rushed for 270 yards and accounted for all but 12 of the Trojans’ points. Much of that damage was done against Hawk reserves. “That’s a tough situation for our JV to go in versus varsity players for as long as they went against them,” said Eilers. “Our JV never went against a JV tonight. I know our JV played as hard as they could and I appreciate them for that.” The coach admitted that he probably should have left the varsity in a little longer. “I started to get nervous there,” said Eilers. “I want our kids healthy. I want our kids being able to practice and do the things that we do to help us succeed and I probably took them out a little early.”
The varsity defensive effort included two sacks by Elijah Groeneweg. Lance Berends registered 7.5 total tackles including six solos. Kamradt made seven tackles with five of them being solos. Ebel finished with five solos and 6.5 overall.
The Playoffs move into the Round of 16 this Friday with HMS playing host to North Butler, Greene. The Bearcats enter the contest at 8-1 after defeating Starmont 12-0 in the first round. North Butler was runner-up to West Hancock in District 2. The Bearcats have rushed the ball 337 times this season for a total of 2350 yards. Their 20 completed passes in 47 attempts resulted in 346 yards gained.
When asked if facing this next hurdle in the playoffs required his team to focus any harder Eilers responded, “I don’t think so. I just think we do what we do. I think we break the film down the way we do. I think we try to present the information to our kids the way we do. I did challenge our kids to increase their watching of Hudl themselves, individually, but other that that I think we just stay consistent. I think we stay with what we do and ride the horse that got us here.”
Game time against North Butler is 7:00 p.m. Friday, October 29 at Hartley.
TC 6 8 8 32 – 54
HMS 22 30 6 12 – 70
9:52 HMS – Connor Dodd 25 yard run (run failed) 6-0
6:27 HMS – Korey Ebel 43 yard run (Ebel 2 pt run) 14-0
6:22 TC – Michael Turner 64 yard run (run failed) 14-6
3:49 HMS – Dodd 24 yard run (Dodd 2 pt run) 22-6
10:44 HMS – Dodd 21 yard run (run failed) 28-6
7:38 HMS – Dodd 10 yard run (Dodd 2 pt run) 36-6
1:30 HMS – Ryan Borden 4 yard run from (Keevyn Jacobsma 2 pt pass from Ebel) 44-6
1:17 TC – Turner 83 yard kickoff return (Turner 2 pt run) 44-14
0:09 HMS – Dodd 4 yard run (Ebel 2 pt run) 52-14
11:44 HMS – Ebel 82 yard kickoff return (kick failed) 58-14
5:26 TC – Turner 33 yard run (Turner 2 pt run) 58-22
7:59 HMS – Ethan Diehm 3 yard run (run) 64-22
6:34 TC – Turner 56 yard run (Turner 2 pt run) 64-30
4:01 TC – Eli Marsh 70 yard pass from Maddox Anderson (Turner 2 pt run) 64-38
1:55 TC – Holden Skow 45 yard punt return (Turner 2 pt run) 64-46
1:39 HMS – Dodd 52 yard run (run failed) 70-46
0:42 TC – Turner 59 yard run (Turner 2 pt run) 70-54
Rushing: Dodd 25-300, 6 TD; Ebel 8-107, 1 TD; Travis Kamradt 4-27; Borden 2-19, 1 TD; Diehm 7-12, 1 TD; James Gellerman 2-(-10).
Passing: Ebel 2-5, 11 yards.
Receiving: Kamradt 1-9, Jacobsma 1-2.
Leading Tacklers: Lance Berends 7.5 (6 solos); Kamradt 7 (5); Ebel 6.5 (5); Elijah Groeneweg 3.5 (3, 2 sacks); Keaton Graves 3 (2); Jacobsma 3 (2); Mason Brinkman 2.5 (2); Dodd 2.5 (2).
Interceptions: Ebel 1-0.
Kickoff returns: Ebel 2-108, 1 TD; Dodd 3-68.
Kickoffs: Nick Bronstad 11-452.
Punts: Ortega 2-48 (24 yd. avg.).