The Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Hawks got a chance Friday night to not only avenge one of their two losses on the season but, more importantly, win their way into the playoff semifinal round. Top ranked West Hancock had other ideas. The Eagles produced some explosive running plays on offense while their defense did not allow HMS to do the same. The result was a 27-0 victory for West Hancock in the Class A quarterfinal round game played November 5 at Britt.
The Eagles rushed for a total of 363 yards and 210 of those came on their touchdown runs of 43, 75, 48 and 44 yards. “I tip my hat to them,” said HMS head coach Jay Eilers in reference to the way West Hancock was able to break through on some long runs. “They made some adjustments. They were something they had never shown on film.”
The Hawks allowed few sustained drives, forcing three West Hancock punts and getting an interception from Mason Brinkman. “I think our kids did a good job with defensive alignment and assignment,” explained Eilers. “Our kids did exactly what we asked them to do.”
On their second possession of the game the Eagles were stopped on downs at the HMS 20. The Hawks drove all the way to the West Hancock 18 before losing a fumble to the Eagles. The home team eventually capitalized on the turnover as Mathew Francis ran 43 yards up the middle for the first score of the game. HMS stopped Francis on the 2-point attempt. With time winding down in the first half, the Hawks again marched the ball deep into West Hancock territory but committed two false start penalties and saw the clock run out on them.
Eilers was asked what impact the inability to finish that late drive may have had on the team. “It could have taken something out of the kids,” admitted the coach. “But at halftime they were as hungry as ever. We were out of time outs. The penalties and clock management hurt us. That’s on me as a head coach. It’s one of the things we have to get better at.”
West Hancock received the second half kickoff but Brinkman’s interception set the Hawks up on the Eagle 34 yard line. HMS was turned away on downs and two plays later the Eagles’ Braden Walk took the handoff against the flow and weaved his way to a 75 yard touchdown. The Hawks again thwarted the 2-point conversion play and West Hancock led 12-0.
HMS went three-and-out on its next possession and Jordan Ortega’s punt resulted in a touchback. It took the Eagles eight plays to go up by three scores. Francis again found an opening up the middle and ran 48 yards for the touchdown. Francis added the two points for a 20-0 West Hancock lead.
The Eagles scored on their next possession as well. It was again Francis, this time from 44 yards out. The senior finished the night with 256 yards on 21 carries. Casey Lamoreux tacked on the extra point to make the score 27-0.
The Hawks were able to get little going offensively in the second half. “They really limited us,” said Eilers. “They were going to keep us to those 3 and 4 yard runs. They play a 4-4. They stay with it live or die. They keep things in front of them and they do a good job of getting to the ball.” Kooper Ebel rushed 23 times for 98 yards. Connor Dodd added 71 yards on 21 carries. Travis Kamradt ran the ball once for two yards. No other HMS stats were available at press time.
The Hawks finish the season with a record of 8-3. Their losses were to West Hancock twice and to Class 1A West Sioux, both of which are still competing for a state championship. Eilers believes there is more to a successful season than the final recording in the ledger. “Greatness is not about record, it is about people,” stated the coach. “We accomplished greatness this year. It’s the players, it’s the people in the community and the student body. And we have a group of parents who are so committed to these young men.”
The team’s accomplishments included absorbing a new offensive philosophy. “I think they exceeded my expectations on how much these young men can take in,” said Eilers. “It was amazing to me the football knowledge they have. That’s what we need to continue with our program.”
This was the last time to wear the uniform for seniors Brinkman, Dodd, Wyatt Borden, Nick Bronstad, Keith DeBoer, Jesse Garcia, Keaton Graves, Jordan Ortega and Brenton Thomas. “Our seniors are great leaders by example,” their coach remarked. “Those kids are amazing. They are irreplaceable. I’m just thankful for what they’ve done.”
Present meets future for HMS as the football season comes to an end. “The future starts with closure for this year’s team,” noted Eilers. “We’ll come together for one last time and thank the seniors and reflect on the accomplishments this year. Then we’ll talk about expectations, what we need to do to accomplish our goals and start moving forward.”
HMS 0 0 0 0 – 0
WH 0 6 14 7 – 27
4:31 WH – Mathew Francis 43 yard run (run failed) 0-6
7:41 WH – Braden Walk 75 yard run (pass failed) 0-12
2:09 WH – Francis 48 yard run (Francis 2 pt run) 0-20
10:13 WH – Francis 44 yard run (Casey Lamoreux kick) 0-27