Hawks look to mix it up against No. 2 Van Meter
Bulldogs bring 20-game regular season win streak into 1A?District 6 showdown of unbeatens
That’s been the offensive philosophy adopted by the South Hamilton football team during this first half of the season and so far it’s paid off. The Hawks are 3-0 for the first time in a decade and rank among the top-10 rushing teams in Class 1A.
Here comes the but …
South Hamilton (1-0 District 6) also realizes that things are going to get much tougher as it settles into the meat of its schedule over the next three weeks, and that begins Friday evening with a road trip south to take on second-ranked and fellow unbeaten Van Meter (3-0, 1-0) at 7 p.m.
A one-dimensional approach isn’t going to work against the Bulldogs, who have won 20 consecutive regular season games and reached the state semifinals in each of the past two seasons.
“We’re going to have to do some (different) things,” South Hamilton head coach Corey Klemp said of his team’s underdog status. “They’ve got good enough athletes that we can’t be one-dimensional. They are just a really solid team.”
That will put the spotlight on Hawks’ senior quarterback Marco Balderas, who has attempted just 10 passes in three games. He’s completed six of them for 61 yards. Also under the microscope will be tight end Jared Ullestad, as well as the backs going out on passing routes.
But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Hawks knew this day was coming.
“We haven’t had to show a lot of it yet,” Corey Klemp said. “But (Van Meter) will definitely be a handful.”
Even though it will attempt to amp up its passing game, South Hamilton will still be a run-first team and with good reason. The Hawks have four backs — Logan Klemp, Tanner Volkmann, Grant Evans and DJ Klonglan — who are all capable of picking up yards in chunks behind an offensive line that continues to improve every week.
Klemp is the best of the bunch with his bruising style. He’s picked up 280 yards and four touchdowns on just 35 carries. Klonglan has been the home run hitter; he averages 11.9 yards per carry and has reached the end zone twice.
They’ll be challenged by a Van Meter defense that has allowed just 29 points and only nine in the last two weeks. The Bulldogs have outscored their foes by 79 points.
Offensively, few teams are as balanced as Van Meter, which ranks second in 1A in total offense. Veteran running back Carson Rhodes (465 yards, four TD’s) is No. 5 on the individual rushing leaderboard in the class, and quarterback Blake Fryar has completed 31 of 59 passes for 362 yards and four more scores. His two favorite targets, Sam Thompson and JJ Durflinger, have accounted for 13 catches for 217 yards and all four aerial TD’s.
“Their run and pass is very balanced,” Corey Klemp said.
Van Meter throttled South Hamilton, 42-0, a season ago. Rhodes rushed for 112 yards and Fryar passed for 164 more.
But this isn’t the same Hawks’ team that limped through the middle of the 2016 season. A year ago they just hoped to survive the three-week gauntlet of Van Meter, Panorama and Madrid, but now they expect to thrive.
“Last year with where we were in the progression, we did look at the season in chunks,” Corey Klemp said. “With this group this year, we truly are looking at each game on its own. (The players) do have more confidence and they understand the importance of every game now.”
Eagle Grove joins South Hamilton and Van Meter as District 6 teams that are unbeaten. Panorama was ranked in the top 10 prior to its loss to Madrid last week.
In other words, the chase for the district’s two playoff berths will be treacherous.
“It’s certainly a real strong district,” Corey Klemp said. “With Madrid beating Panorama, it’s a storied program for a reason, and I think Panorama is a real quality team, too.”