JEWELL - Offensively and defensively, the South Hamilton football team was sound Friday evening at Taylor Field.
But special teams ... ugh!
Nashua-Plainfield used a pair of long kick returns and a punt return to the house to overcome a 12-0 deficit and beat South Hamilton, 20-12, in a winner-take-all match-up between Class 1A District 3 rivals.
DFJ photo by Tracy Runneberg
South Hamilton tailback Devin Howard (2) looks for an opening after taking the handoff from quarterback Matt Hislop on Friday in Jewell.
The loss kept the Hawks (5-4, 2-4) out of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, while the Huskies (5-5, 4-2) punched their postseason ticket.
Nashua-Plainfield will face Sumner-Fredericksburg (6-3) in a first-round bout on Wednesday.
"It was a tough pill to swallow," South Hamilton head coach TJ Schaefer said of Friday's loss. "We had more yards than they did, but their big plays on special teams just killed us."
Nashua-Plainfield0 6 8 6-20
South Hamilton6 6 0 0-12
SH - Triston Twedt 50 pass from Matt Hislop (pass failed), 7:04.
SH - John Hegland 5 pass from Hislop (kick failed), 11:17.
N-P - Matthew Sharp 5 run (kick failed), 1:51.
N-P - Nate Masters 16 pass from Sharp (Austin Ferch pass from Masters), 7:47.
N-P - Brody Schmitt fumble recovery (kick failed), 6:10.
Rushing - N-P: Tryston Crook 13-49, Matthew Sharp 5-42, Nate Masters 3-35, Ryan Siefken 9-18. SH: Devin Howard 12-27, Sam Waid 4-16, Matt Hislop 10-13, Lane Heinlein 3-9, Triston Twedt 1-(-3).
Passing - N-P: Sharp 6-10-0 84. SH: Hislop 13-22-0 248.
Receiving - N-P: Masters 4-52, Austin Ferch 2-32. SH: Howard 3-31, Justin Shepherd 3-90, Twedt 1-50, John Hegland 2-21, Josh Doering 2-23, Trevor Ullestad 2-33.
The Hawks finished with 312 yards of offense, included 248 passing yards from the right arm of quarterback Matt Hislop. He completed 13 of 22 passes to six different receivers and notched a pair of touchdowns.
Nashua-Plainfield piled up 228 yards, but scored on a pair of short fields in the second and third quarters to jump ahead for good.
South Hamilton moved down to the Huskies 2-yard line midway through the third quarter in an attempt to jump back ahead, but was stuffed on three consecutive plays and turned the ball over on downs.
The Hawks were limited to just 64 yards on the ground. Junior tailback Devin Howard accounted for 27 yards on 12 totes.
Nashua-Plainfield padded its lead to eight points with 6:10 remaining in regulation on a 51-yard punt return by Ryan Siefken. He was actually stripped by Hislop as he neared the goal line, but the Huskies' Brody Schmitt was there to plop on top of the fumble in the end zone for the touchdown.
South Hamilton appeared on its way to the postseason early, as Hislop carved up the Huskies' secondary. He connected with Triston Twedt on a 50-yard touchdown throw in the first quarter, and then early in the second he hit John Hegland with a 5-yard scoring toss for a 12-0 Hawks' lead.
Justin Shepherd led the receivers with three catches for 90 yards. Howard also made three catches that covered 31 yards.
Nashua-Plainfield signal caller Matthew Sharp cut the Huskies' deficit to 12-6 on a 5-yard gallop to the end zone late in the first half.
Sharp and Nate Masters hooked up on a 16-yard touchdown strike with 7:47 remaining in the third period.
Schaefer thanked his seniors afterwards.
"The seniors were good leaders for us all year," he said. "Everybody had pretty low expectations for us, but the guys proved they're a high-caliber football team.
"For this senior class, they're the first ones to have a winning record in five years, so that says a lot about how hard they worked."