NASHUA - The good news is the football season will go on for the South Hamilton football team despite Friday's 35-28 loss to Nashua-Plainfield during Week 9 of the regular season.
The bad news is the Hawks won't get the chance to play at home, not in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs anyway.
Nashua-Plainfield (5-4, 4-2) built a 14-0 lead after one quarter, fell behind 28-21 in the second half and then rallied with 14 points over the final 6:44 to defend its home field and leapfrog the Hawks (6-3, 4-2) in the final District 3 standings. The two teams tied for the second spot behind district champion Dike-New Hartford (9-0, 6-0), but the Huskies earned the No. 2 seed for the playoffs on the strength of their head-to-head victory.
South Hamilton will now travel northeast to Calmar - a lengthy round trip of 287 miles - on Wednesday to face South Winneshiek (7-2).
It was a difficult loss to stomach for Hawks' head coach T.J. Schaefer, who pointed to turnovers as a big reason for the loss. He also said his team's lack of energy early on didn't help either.
"I felt that we were the better team, but they found a way to win and that's how the ball bounces," Schaefer, who takes South Hamilton into the playoffs for the first time since 2007, said. "The biggest difference-maker in the game for us was the turnovers - we had four and they only had one - and we've just got to learn how to play on the road because we're going to have to do it on Wednesday."
NASHUA-PLAINFIELD 35, SO. HAMILTON 28
South Hamilton 0 14 14 0-28
Nashua-Plainfield 14 0 7 14-35
N-P - Jordan Klingman 42 INT return (Seth Harrington kick), 6:34.
N-P - Brandon Marks 5 run (Harrington kick), 2:25.
SH - Matt Hislop 1 run (pass failed), 7:18.
SH - Andy Cook 3 run (Zach Zoske pass from Hislop), 1:26.
SH - Trevor Ullestad 51 pass from Cook (Ullestad kick), 10:20.
N-P - Jason Fisher 18 pass from Klingman (Harrington kick), 5:32.
SH - Cook 2 run (Ullestad kick), 0:36.
N-P - Klingman 53 run (Harrington kick), 6:44.
N-P - Hunter Mueller 53 pass from Klingman, Harrington kick), 3:21.
RUSHING - SH: Sam Waid 17-76, Matt Hislop 10-58, Andy Cook 9-32, Devin Howard 5-10. N-P: Jordan Klingman 7-77, Brandon Marks 5-43, Zade McCall 11-32, Jason Fisher 1-3, Hunter Mueller 2-(-1), Reece Reams 8-(-8).
PASSING - SH: Hislop 7-12-2 94, Cook 1-1-0 51. N-P: Klingman 6-13-1 134, Mueller 1-1-0 34.
RECEIVING - SH: Trevor Ullestad 2-59, Howard 2-44, Cook 2-23, Ross Enderson 1-11, Waid 1-8. N-P: Mueller 4-113, Jason Fisher 2-52, Reams 1-3.
TACKLES (Leaders Only) - SH: Waid 8.5, Ullestad 6, Garrett Evans 5.5, Cook 4.5.
Tailback Devin Howard - the district's second-leading rusher entering the final week of the regular season - left the game with an unspecified injury early in the game and didn't return. Schaefer said he's questionable for Wednesday's contest.
Andy Cook filled in admirably though, compiling 106 yards rushing, receiving and, yes, passing. He had 32 yards and a pair of touchdowns from 3 and 2 yards out on the ground, and he also connected with Trevor Ullestad on a halfback pass that went for a 51-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to give South Hamilton its first lead, 21-14.
Cook capped his solid performance with two receptions for 23 yards.
"Andy Cook ran the ball very well and I think he's one of the most underrated kids on our team," Schaefer said. "(Fullback) Sam Waid (17 carries, 76 yards) stepped it up pretty big for us as well."
Quarterback Matt Hislop completed 7 of 12 passes for 94 yards, but he was intercepted twice. Nashua-Plainfield's Jordan Klingman stepped in front of a pass and returned it 42 yards the other way for the first score of the game.
But Klingman was far from done.
The Huskies' junior quarterback did plenty of offensive damage as well with a pair of touchdown passes and another on the ground. He hooked up with Jason Fisher on an 18-yard TD midway through the third quarter to knot the game at 21.
Cook put the Hawks back on top with his second scoring scamper in the final minute of the third period, but then Klingman went to work. A 53-yard sprint through the Hawks' defense evened the game again at 28 with 6:44 to go, and he capped the late comeback with a 53-yard bomb to Hunter Mueller with 3:21 remaining.
"We just let him get behind the defense," Schaefer said of Klingman. "He threw a perfect ball a couple of times and burned us deep.
"Going into the fourth quarter we had only given up 32 rushing yards and then he had that long run."
Klingman accumulated 211 yards of total offense. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 134 yards and also rushed for 77 on just seven totes.
South Hamilton accrued 245 yards of offense. Defensively, Waid recorded 8 1/2 tackles at linebacker and Ullestad finished with six from his cornerback position.
Wednesday's test will be no easy task. South Winneshiek spent the first half of the season ranked in the top five before suffering losses to No. 4-ranked (1A) North Fayette and No. 2-ranked (2A) Waukon. But Schaefer says his team isn't just happy to make an appearance in the postseason.
"We expected to have a decent enough season to make the playoffs and now we have to prove that we deserve to be there," he said. "I think we match up with them pretty well because they're not a power team, but they're very athletic."