It’s all or nothing for No. 10 Hawks, Eagles in regular season finale

Winner advances to Class 1A?state playoffs, loser packs the pads away until next year

South Hamilton fullback Grant Evans (44) dives forward for extra yards during a game earlier this season. DFJ photo/Tracy Runneberg

JEWELL — Trying to predict which football teams will and won’t qualify for the state playoffs can be confusing at best and downright impossible at worst.

It can be like trying to understand trigonometry as a 7-year-old. Good luck with that.

Here’s the good news: neither South Hamilton nor Eagle Grove need to take math lessons this week. Their postseason possibilities are as easy as they come.

The winner is in and the loser is out.

The Class 1A District 6 rivals will go to battle in the trenches at Taylor Field at 7 p.m. on Friday with their seasons on the line. Tenth-ranked South Hamilton (7-1, 5-1) currently sits in second place in the district, a game ahead of Eagle Grove (6-2, 4-2).

A Hawks’ win would give them the runner-up spot in the district behind second-ranked Van Meter (8-0, 6-0) and the automatic berth into the playoffs. An Eagles’ win would push them into a tie for second in the district and they would advance on the strength of their head-to-head win over South Hamilton.

No pressure, guys.

This is nothing new for South Hamilton though. Since a Week 4 loss to Van Meter, the Hawks have known they needed to win out to get back to the playoffs for the eighth time overall and first time since 2013.

“Being down to the last game, obviously you can’t hide the fact that it’s going to be a little more hyped up,” South Hamilton head coach Corey Klemp conceded. “But our approach, our routine, it’s the same as it’s been every week since Van Meter. The poise and the focus of our kids have been awesome. They’re very business-like.”

Klemp credits his 11 seniors for keeping the team focused on its goals.

“Our senior class is that way, a very focused group,” he said. “They have that old-school feel to them. It’s line up and go at it.”

But Eagle Grove has its own senior-laden team that has put itself in position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Behind only Van Meter, the Eagles had the biggest group of returning starters in the district this season.

“They’re a lot like us,” Klemp said. “They’re bringing that same maturity into the game, so it will be a heck of a match-up.”

The game will feature four of the district’s top six rushers. South Hamilton’s Logan Klemp (951 yards) and DJ Klonglan (712 yards) rank second and fourth in yards gained, while Eagle Grove’s Brayden Lyman (690 yards) and Evan Anderson (568 yards) sit fifth and sixth.

Klemp needs just 49 yards to become the Hawks first 1,000-yard rusher since Cameron Boyd put up 1,051 during the 2008 season. Klemp has 2,552 career yards and 25 ground touchdowns.

Lyman, the Eagles’ quarterback, ranks fifth in the district in total yards with 1,298. While Eagle Grove’s ground game is its bread and butter, the passing attack is no slouch. Lyman has thrown for 608 yards and 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions, and receivers Ryan Smith and Nikolas Padilla average 57.6 and 21.1 yards per catch, respectively.

South Hamilton’s defense, led by Logan Klemp with 621⁄2 tackles, including seven tackles for loss and four sacks, has been stingy in recent weeks. The Hawks have outscored their last three opponents 135-19 and their last four 153-34.

“(Eagle Grove’s offense) creates some confusion in the backfield and then they do a nice job of timing in the throws to go with it,” Coach Klemp said. “It’s definitely a challenge, but we’ll be prepared for it.”