A championship team should be considered the best until proven otherwise – right? Such as losing, showing weakness, or maybe a program that traditionally loses and has a one-off year.
The West Hancock football team has shown none of those things through the season’s first six weeks. The Eagles cemented their place as the best team in Class A on Friday night, traveling to #5 HMS and downing the Hawks 31-18. HMS has since dropped to #9 in the latest Radio Iowa rankings.
Before Friday night, West Hancock averaged 50 points per game and allowed their opponents to score just nine. The Eagles are the defending state champions, but even coach Mark Sanger felt the Eagles had something to prove on Friday. “Last year (and past) doesn’t do anything for us this year,” Sanger said. “This group of seniors; it’s their time to make a mark on our program, and we have to earn everything we get,” he added.
West Hancock did just that.
Defensively, West Hancock held Travis Kamradt to 63 yards on 18 carries and Kooper Ebel to 129 yards on 27 carries; both runners are two of the state’s best. They were both at nearly 10 yards per rush before Friday night, and Ebel was already over 1000 yards rushing in five games. The defense was also tested for durability and passed. HMS ran 63 offensive plays in the game, much more than they are usually on the field for. “We challenged our defensive lineman, told them if they didn’t do what they needed to do, it was going to be a rough night for them, and they showed up,” Sanger said.
Offensively, West Hancock was efficient and proved they can be multi-dimensional. The Eagles racked up 251 yards of total offense on 44 plays for nearly six yards per play. They punted just twice in a top-five matchup. But most importantly, West Hancock proved they’re a threat in the passing game. Something that we (local media and coaches) knew but the Eagles haven’t had to rely on while blowing out opponents to this point. A lethal West Hancock passing attack strengthens the ground game and makes the Eagles harder to prepare for. Mitchell Smith is an outstanding quarterback, and last year’s semifinal and championship games were just a tiny glimpse into a budding sophomore. Smith was 9/17 for 89 yards and two touchdowns Friday night, and standout Senior Rylan Barnes caught all passes.
“It was a heck of a high school football game,” Sanger described the win afterward.
West Hancock fell behind in the second quarter when HMS scored first, and Sanger was thrilled his team battled back, “It was huge, in those big games, you have to get right back at it, and our kids did. We adjusted and threw the ball a little more”, Sanger mentioned.
Special teams helped out, too. After West Hancock scored 12 straight points to lead 12-6 at halftime, HMS came out of the locker room a stop and score from tying or taking the lead. Jaxon Peterson decided to give the rest of the offense a break from trying to drive the field. He took the second-half kickoff inside the five-yard line before Kale Zuehl ran it in from 3-yards out. “We never looked back from there,” Sanger said.
So what now?
West Hancock will go for at least a share of the district championship in their final big test before the postseason. The Eagles will host Saint Ansgar on Friday night at Bob Sanger Field, “Oh, they’ll be ready to roll,” Mark Sanger said of the Saints. “They’re very physical and very talented up front,” Sanger also mentioned. “The two runnings back are leading the district again,” he added.
“We’ll be ready to roll, they’ll be ready to roll – it will be another great high school football game.” – said Sanger. Kickoff is set for 7:00 PM from Britt. The game can be live streamed on KIOW.com for FREE, with Jay Hiscock and Kevin Wilson on the call.
Coaches Corner Progam hosted by Zarren Egesal with Mark Sanger from Saturday, October 1st: