Big-play QB spoils Hawks’ playoffs opener

South Hamilton quarterback Marco Balderas rolls out as he looks for an open receiver against Denver on Friday. He completed 7 of 18 passes for 66 yards in the Hawks 28-6 loss. DFJ photo/Tracy Runneberg

DENVER — Sam Joerger is a playmaker and it doesn’t matter if he’s running the ball, throwing the ball or on defense.

The Denver senior put his entire arsenal on display Friday night and he proved to be the difference maker in the sixth-ranked Cyclones’ 28-6 victory over 10th-ranked South Hamilton in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs.

Joerger piled up 397 all-purpose yards and played a part in all four Denver touchdowns. He provided the dagger too when he intercepted South Hamilton quarterback Marco Balderas and returned it 93 yards to the house with 1:19 remaining.

Joerger rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown, and also completed 7 of 10 passes for 147 yards and two more scores.

“As a runner, he sees the field really well and he sees the seams. There were times where you’d swear the tailback had the ball and he didn’t, so (Joerger) does a good job of that, too,” South Hamilton head coach Corey Klemp said. “As a passer, they didn’t get huge yards, but he (completed) 70 percent and a lot of them were on third-down plays.”

South Hamilton running back Logan Klemp looks for an open lane against Denver on Friday. DFJ photo/Tracy Runneberg

The battle was closer than the final score indicated. Trailing 21-6 to start the fourth quarter, South Hamilton (8-2) drove inside the Denver 20-yard line twice, but came up empty because of turnovers. On the possession prior to Joerger’s pick-6, the Hawks fumbled the ball away at the 19.

“It’s the minute things in situations like that,” Klemp said. “I thought our kids played extremely well and we went toe to toe with them. The turnovers, those are things you look back and go what if, but the kids have done too much great this fall and over the last few years to pull out a play or two.”

Denver (9-1) out-gained South Hamilton 366-220. Balderas completed 7 of 18 passes for 66 yards and Logan Klemp lumbered for 115 yards on the ground. The majority of Klemp’s yards came on a 79-yard off-tackle run late in the second quarter that pulled the Hawks within 14-6 at the break.

Joerger engineered a pair of second-quarter scoring drives for Denver. He hooked up with Kevin Walsh on a 15-yard touchdown pass to break the scoreless tie and then later got loose on a 13-yard run to the end zone.

Another toss to Walsh, this time covering 40 yards, upped the Cyclones’ lead to 21-6 with 4:37 remaining in the third quarter.

Denver’s defense, which entered the playoffs with four consecutive shutouts, limited the Hawks other backfield options Grant Evans (31 yards) and DJ Klonglan (15 yards) to a combined 46 yards.

Jared Ullestad was Balderas’ top receiving weapon; he caught two passes for 30 yards. Logan Klemp picked up 20 additional yards on three receptions.

Logan Klemp closed out his brilliant four-year career with 2,861 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns, as well as 592 yards and six more TD’s receiving. He was the Hawks’ leading rusher in each of the past three seasons, as well as their top receiver during his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons.

Corey Klemp praised his entire senior class of 10. As sophomores, many of them were contributors to a 1-7 season. But two years later they pushed South Hamilton into the postseason for the first time in four years and tied the school’s best ever regular season record of 8-1.

The contributions from the seniors not only galvanized this South Hamilton team, but will continue to pay dividends in future years, Corey Klemp said.

“It really isn’t just about this year and it’s like I told them after the game, be sad and be disappointed that you lost, but don’t lose any pride in what you’ve done,” he said. “A number of those guys were starting as sophomores on a team that was nowhere close and they just worked and worked and kept believing. The younger guys have seen that and this year really has redefined what it takes to get it done. I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve done and more thankful for what they’ve created at South Hamilton.”

Denver will hit the road to take on second-ranked Van Meter (10-0) in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs on Friday. Van Meter, a 2016 state semifinalist, handled Belmond-Klemme in its opener, 24-6, and also handed South Hamilton its only regular season loss, 42-0, in Week 4.

Class 1A State Playoffs

First Round

Friday at Denver

Denver 28, South Hamilton 6

South Hamilton 0 6 0 0 — 6

Denver 0 14 7 7 — 28

Second Quarter

DEN — Kevin Walsh 15 pass from Sam Joerger (Kain Eagle kick), 10:23.

DEN — Joerger 13 run (Eagle kick), 3:56.

SH — Logan Klemp 79 run (kick failed), 3:09.

Third Quarter

DEN — Walsh 40 pass from Joerger (Eagle kick), 4:37.

Fourth Quarter

DEN — Joerger 93 INT return (Eagle kick), 1:19.

Individual Statistics

Rushing — SH: Logan Klemp 17-115, Grant Evans 7-31, DJ Klonglan 5-15, Marco Balderas 3-(-7). DEN: Sam Joerger 23-157, Bo McMahon 19-62, Cael Krueger 1-0.

Passing — SH: Mar. Balderas 7-18-1 66. DEN: Joerger 7-10-0 147.

Receiving — SH: Jared Ullestad 2-30, Klemp 3-20, Wes Wynkoop 1-13, Cole Berg 1-3. DEN: Kevin Walsh 3-80, Riley Wright 3-69, McMahon 1-(-2).