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No. 4 Hawks, No. 7 Titans collide

JEWELL — One thing’s for sure — if fourth-ranked South Hamilton is to advance to the Class 1A state quarterfinals, it’s going to have to earn it.

The unbeaten Hawks (8-0) face one of the more daunting treks in the class during tonight’s Round of 16, as it will welcome seventh-ranked South Central Calhoun (7-1) to Taylor Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The winner will face either fifth-ranked Southeast Valley (8-0) or Denver (6-3) next week where a trip to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls for the semifinals will be on the line.

South Hamilton and South Central Calhoun are more than a little familiar with one another. This will be the fifth meeting between the two programs since 2014; the Titans have won the previous four, including a 21-6 decision a little over a year ago.

Hawks’ head coach Corey Klemp is focused more on the similarities between the two teams though. In many ways, they’re mirror images where fundamentals and physicality jump off the page.

“We’re real similar,” Klemp said. “There are no surprises as to what we’re going to do and we’re just going to try to out-execute you. They’ll run spread a little more than we do, but they hang their hat like we do on the run game.”

Winning the battles in the trenches will be paramount. Neither team allows many points — South Hamilton ranks second in 1A, giving up 7.6 points per game, while South Central Calhoun is No. 10, giving up just under 12 an outing.

In other words, expect a lot more punishing hits than points on the scoreboard.

“This is going to be an absolute slugfest,” Klemp said. “They’re a team that has always been really physical and this crew that we’ve got certainly loves to play physical as well.

“It will be interesting because both offenses are very, very productive, and both defenses are very, very stingy. It really sets up for a great match-up and something has to give one way or the other.”

The Titans climbed to as high as No. 2 in the 1A rankings before a 32-23 loss to Southeast Valley in Week 5, which snapped a streak of 30 consecutive regular season victories.

South Hamilton will be tasked with slowing down Titans’ talented junior running back Blake McAlister, who has rushed for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He averages 8.4 yards per carry.

SCC can also throw the ball, as quarterback Cole Corey has completed 55 of 85 passes for 816 yards and eight scores.

South Hamilton will try to do what it always does — limit the opposing team’s possessions with its methodical, ground-and-pound style. The Hawks lead 1A in rushing with 2,838 yards.

Tonight’s Game

South Central Calhoun (7-1) at South Hamilton (8-0)

What: Class 1A state playoffs Round of 16.

Where: Taylor Field, Jewell.

Time: 7 p.m.

Last year: SCC won, 21-6.

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