NEH over-matched by Tigers’ physical 1-2 punch

BLAIRSBURG – Austin Laabs and Cale Crowder have spent the fall doling out headaches to opposing teams and that trend continued here Friday night.

Guthrie Center’s imposing backfield mates carved up the over-matched Northeast Hamilton defense for a combined 288 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, as the Tigers claimed a 49-6 victory over the Trojans in a Class 8-man District 7 clash.

Guthrie Center (6-2, 4-2), which is headed to the playoffs, won its third straight game. Northeast Hamilton (2-6, 1-5) dropped its fourth consecutive contest leading up to its final game ever this Friday against fifth-ranked and unbeaten Glidden-Ralston (8-0, 6-0).

Laabs, a tailback, and Crowder, a fullback, chewed up 9.3 yards per carry on average. Laabs finished with 176 yards on 16 carries, while Crowder chewed up 112 yards on 15 totes.

The Tigers piled up 389 yards in all, including 72 through the air. Starting quarterback TJ Wickland completed all three of his pass attempts for 69 yards.

“They were a big, physical team that dominated us in pretty much every way,” NEH head coach John Seiser said. “Our effort was good and the kids continued to fight, but they were able to wall us off whenever they wanted.”

Guthrie Center opened up a 35-0 halftime lead and increased it to 48-0 before the Trojans were able to get on the scoreboard on a Zach Hassebrock 7-yard touchdown run with 4:31 to go.

Laabs reached the end zone on jaunts of 33 and 4 runs in the game’s initial 5:20 and then turned the scoring responsibilities over to Crowder. The 230-pound bruiser scored the Tigers’ final five touchdowns on runs of 3, 8, 16, 9 and 4 yards.

The two backs enter Week 9 with a combined 1,894 ground yards.

Crowder was also a bull in the middle of the Tigers’ defense. NEH managed just 125 yards of total offense.

Hassebrock led the way for the Trojans with 43 yards on seven rushes. Starting running back Nick Jeffers was unable to find any room to operate and picked up just 26 yards on eight carries.

“I thought Nick ran the ball really hard, but the holes just closed so quick,” Seiser said.

Hunter Dilley completed two passes, both to Wes Weinkoop, that covered 17 yards.

Seiser admitted that the next few days are going to be difficult as he and his staff prepare the team for the last dance, and the daunting opponent only makes the task tougher.

“I think the kids are probably handling it better than the coaches,” Seiser said. “It’s going to be a difficult week and our goal is to go out and play the best we can play. I would love to at least have a chance to pull an upset because that would be a great way to go out, but realistically we know that’s probably not going to happen because (Glidden-Ralston) just doesn’t have any weaknesses.”