WEBSTER CITY - The Midwest Rampage won't enter the Southern Plains Football League playoffs as the No. 1 seed, but that doesn't mean the local amateur football squad isn't the team to beat.
The black and orange proved it's a championship contender on Saturday.
Running the ball with power on offense and closing down those same ground lanes on defense in sweltering heat, the Rampage dominated all afternoon en route to a 32-22 victory over the previously unbeaten and nationally No. 2-ranked (9-man) Southwest Huskerz.
Ross Haren (35) looks for an opening during the Rampage 32-22 win over the Huskerz on Saturday.
Rampage defensive coordinator Marty Hart (left) and head coach Matt Girdley embrace in the final moments of their team’s 32-22 win over the nationally No. 2-ranked Southwest Huskerz on Saturday in Webster City.
Rampage linebacker John Elkin (right) sacks Huskerz quarterback Jordan Larson (11), one of his nine tackles in Saturday’s 32-22 win in Webster City.
The Huskerz (7-1) still claimed the No. 1 seed for the SPFL playoffs, a rung in front of the fifth-ranked South Central Hawgs (7-1). The Rampage (7-2, 6-2 SPFL) secured the No. 3 seed and will host the sixth-seeded Steele County Warriors (3-5) this Saturday at 3 p.m. As always, admission to the playoff battle will be free.
The Rampage snuck by the Warriors, 14-13, when the two teams met in Blooming Prairie, Minn., on April 26.
Veteran running back Ross Haren rumbled for 180 tough yards and two long touchdowns on 22 carries to spearhead the Rampage offense on Saturday. The Huskerz focused on shutting down quarterback Ben Jass - he completed just 2-of-7 passes for 28 yards - but that allowed Haren to gut them on the interior.
RAMPAGE 35, HUSKERZ 22
Saturday at Webster City
Southwest Huskerz0 0 0 22-22
Midwest Rampage0 3 16 13-32
RAM - Tack 19 FG.
RAM - Osborn fumble recovery in end zone (Tack kick).
RAM - Safety.
RAM - Haren 58 run (Tack kick).
HUS - Smith 1 run (Jimenez kick).
RAM - Kliegl 91 kickoff return (kick failed).
HUS - Smith 4 run (Jimenez kick).
HUS - Larson 9 run (Ramirez pass from Larson).
RAM - Haren 61 run (Tack kick).
Rushing - Ross Haren 22-180, Ben Jass 1-2, Nick Plueger 1-1.
Passing - Jass 3-7-1 28.
Receiving - Gunnar Wyatt 1-15, Taylor Karas 1-10, Cory Stuhr 1-3.
Tackles - Nick Plueger 11, John Elkin 9, Joe Cason 7, Herb Bolden 7, Eric Walechka 5, Shon Osborn 5, Justin Engh 4, Tyler Mosbach 3, Caleb Bonjour 3, Brian Miller 3, Tanner Day 3, Todd Sauer 3, Cody Mosbach 1, Ben Scott 1.
"It was a great win for the Rampage because the Huskerz are a very solid team and there's a reason they were undefeated and ranked so high," Rampage head coach Matt Girdley said. "They defended our pass very well, but it opened up the run."
Haren's 58-yard sprint to the end zone late in the third quarter capped a big scoring spurt that sent the Rampage into the final period ahead 19-0. Earlier in the third quarter, Shon Osborn recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and just a few minutes later the Rampage tacked on two more points with a safety.
Huskerz bruising running back Darieon Smith finally started to find a little daylight in the final period; he scored on runs of 1 and 4 yards to make things interesting.
Smith entered the battle with 1,024 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging a ridiculous 10.5 yards per tote. But the Rampage Black Plague Defense bottled him up and limited him to just 51 yards on 15 touches.
"We knew coming into the game that the Huskerz are a well-coached, high-powered offensive team and you have to respect Smith because he has speed and strength, but our defense is pretty stout and our (defensive line) up front is tough," Rampage middle linebacker John Elkin said after registering nine tackles, including one of the team's five quarterback sacks. "It was a great team effort."
Smith's first score trimmed the Rampage lead to 19-7, but Aron Kliegl had the answer in the form of a 91-yard kickoff return to the house to up the lead to 25-7.
Back-to-back Huskerz touchdowns made it a 25-22 game with 1:45 remaining and created some unease on the Rampage sideline, but Haren put the finishing touches on the upset with a 61-yard jaunt to the end zone with 50 ticks to go.
The Huskerz out-gained the Rampage 322-211, but the majority of the visitor's yards came in the fourth quarter as they rallied back.
Linebacker Nick Plueger made a team-high 11 tackles for the Rampage, and new team member Joe Cason - a Southeast Polk High School graduate who played collegiately at UNI - joined Herb Bolden with seven stops.
Tanner Day collected two sacks. Osborn had one.
The Rampage upped its home record to 14-2 since the start of the 2011 season - a good sign leading up to the home playoff game this weekend.
Note: Starting wide receiver Taylor Karas broke his collar bone early in the second quarter after catching a 10-yard pass from Jass. He was transported to Van Diest Hospital and had surgery to repair the damage. He will miss the rest of the season.