EAGLE GROVE - Facing a must-win situation in the race for the playoffs, the South Hamilton football team called on its backfield leader to again carry the load here Friday night.
Devin Howard ... paging Devin Howard.
Coming off a 209-yard performance in a Week 7 victory over Ogden, the junior tailback ran amuck for 181 yards and three touchdowns in a key 42-20 win over Class 1A District 3 rival Eagle Grove.
DFJ photo by Tracy Runneberg
South Hamilton quarterback Matt Hislop (7) breaks a diving arm tackle attempt by Eagle Grove’s Graham Schope on Friday during the Hawks’ 42-20 win.
Howard accumulated just 195 yards rushing over the first six weeks of the season, but has found his rhythm and piled up 390 yards in his last two outings.
"Devin did a great job for us and he got us out of some big jams," South Hamilton head coach TJ Schaefer said. "We've tried to spread the ball around a lot all year, but lately we've been trying to get Devin eight to nine more carries per game, and he's starting to see things a lot better than he did early in the season."
South Hamilton (5-3, 2-3) kept itself in contention for one of the district's four postseason tickets. The Hawks will host Nashua-Plainfield (4-5, 3-2) in the regular season finale on Friday needing another win to gain entrance to the playoffs.
South Hamilton14 7 7 14-42
Eagle Grove 0 8 6 6-20
SH - Lane Heinlein 1 run (Jacob Haugland kick).
SH - Matt Hislop 1 run (Haugland kick).
EG - Brandon Johnson 4 run (Chris Monley pass from Johnson).
SH - Devin Howard 57 run (Haugland kick).
EG - Johnson 17 run (kick failed).
SH - Howard 30 run (Haugland kick).
EG - Josh Morris 30 pass from Johnson (run failed).
SH - Howard 8 run (Haugland kick).
SH - Sam Waid 44 pass from Hislop (Haugland kick).
Rushing - SH: Devin Howard 21-181, Matt Hislop 14-56, Sam Waid 7-33, Lane Heinlein 8-11. EG: Brandon Johnson 27-144, Brenton Pohlman 6-23, Brennon Cameron 2-2.
Passing - SH: Hislop 7-10-0 108. EG: Johnson 6-9-0 66.
Receiving - SH: Sam Waid 1-44, Josh Doering 1-22, John Hegland 2-18, Trevor Ullestad 1-15, Justin Shepherd 1-10, Howard 1-(-1). EG: Josh Morris 1-30, Cameron 3-21, Chris Monley 2-15.
Tackles - SH: Hunter Griffin 7, Doering 4, Ullestad 4, Lucas Olson 4, Waid 4, Jacob Haugland 3, Heinlein 2, Shepherd 2, Hegland 1, Hislop 1, Triston Twedt 1, Jake Hand , Trevor Swenson , Cody Thompson , Garrett Underwood .
The Hawks jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter against winless Eagle Grove (0-7, 0-5), courtesy of matching 1-yard runs by tailback Lane Heinlein and quarterback Matt Hislop. The second score was set up by Howard, who intercepted a Brandon Johnson pass and returned it 70 yards deep into Eagle territory.
Howard peeled off a 57-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to hand the Hawks a 21-8 halftime advantage. He added a 30-yard sprint to the house in the third quarter and an 8-yard scoring run in the final period.
Howard's final touchdown gave the Hawks a 35-20 cushion, and Hislop put the finishing touches on the victory with a 44-yard scoring toss to Sam Waid late in regulation.
Hislop spread around the wealth, completing 7 of 10 passes to six different targets for 108 yards.
"We pass a lot better when we can run the football, and it helps to spread the ball around like that," Schaefer said. "Hopefully we're a team where it's hard to key on just one kid."
John Hegland made two catches that covered 18 yards, but Schaefer says his contributions were even greater.
"John had a great game. His stats never show it, but he's a real unselfish kid who has to make a lot of sacrifices out there," he said." He's just a very good example of a team player."
Johnson gained 144 ground yards for Eagle Grove, which saw its two-game winning streak against the Hawks come to an end. He reached the end zone on jaunts of 4 and 17 yards, and he also tossed a 30-yard touchdown to Josh Morris.
Johnson finished 6 of 9 from the pocket; he threw for 66 yards.
Hunter Griffin had 7 1/2 tackles for the Hawks' defense, while Trevor Ullestad and Josh Doering both finished with 4 1/2.
South Hamilton will attempt to end a five-year absence from the postseason on Friday. A victory by fewer than seven points would give the Hawks the district's No. 4 seed, while a win by a touchdown or more would move them up to the No. 3 seed, according to Schaefer.
"We've got to keep the attitude that we're all in this week," Schaefer said. "Our preparation is critical because the kids know what's on the line. They have to prepare to win this ballgame."
Nashua-Plainfield is coming off a 55-14 thumping at the hands of fourth-ranked Aplington-Parkersburg on Friday.