Heart and character on full display
Hawks overcome obstacles to win second playoff game, 26-7
November 4, 2021
Statistics may not lie, but they do sometimes tend to blur the whole truth.
Despite losing four fumbles in the first half, Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn still dominated North Butler in a 26-7 win Oct. 29 in the second round of the Class A football playoffs at Peterson Field.
The Hawks lost the turnover battle (4-2) but still outgained North Butler by a significant margin in total yardage (388-152) and scored twice in the second half to seal the victory.
Hawk coach Jay Eilers told the players after the game that numbers would not be the true measure of their performance.
"The biggest thing I said to our team is, statistically, we weren't supposed to win that game. We turned the ball over too many times," he said. "But statistics don't have a way to measure somebody's heart and character. That's why we won, because of the heart and character of our kids, each and every one of them."
H-M-S's first drive ended with a fumble deep in Bearcat territory, but the defense forced a punt and Connor Dodd's return set up his 18-yard run for the game's first points.
A fumble on a punt return and another turnover gave North Butler golden opportunities, but the Hawks continued to thwart their opponent's attempts to get into the end zone.
A 47-yard run by Dodd with three minutes left in the first half gave H-M-S its second score. But a fumble recovery offered the Bearcats' offense another chance and they converted, scoring on a 31-yard pass to make the half time score 12-7.
Eilers felt the defensive effort in the first half was a confidence-booster for the Hawks.
"In order for us to reach our potential and our full goal, we have to be able to handle situations like that," he noted. "I know our defense is going to have the confidence the next time we're put in a position with our backs against the wall."
North Butler started giving the ball away in the second half. Their first turnover came on Travis Kamradt's interception. Kooper Ebel made them pay with a 68-yard scoring run.
Ryan Borden recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff but H-M-S was stopped on fourth down deep in Bearcat territory. The Hawks forced an incomplete pass on fourth down, giving the offense a short field. They took advantage as Dodd scored his third touchdown, extending the lead to 26-7.
The defense bent during the Bearcats' next drive but they prevailed as Ebel knocked down a pass in the end zone. Another defensive stop allowed H-M-S to run out the clock.
Dodd had another big rushing night, gaining 261 yards on 35 carries. That came on the heels of the senior's 300-yard performance against Tri-Center which set an H-M-S playoff record. The old mark of 261 yards was established by Josh Treybal in 2008.
Ebel complemented Dodd's effort with 119 rushing yards.
Kamradt and Ebel led the defense with eight tackles, including six solos. Others with tackles (total/solo) were Lance Berends 5.0/4, Keevyn Jacobsma 4.0/3, Keaton Graves and Dodd 3.5/3, Mason Brinkman 3/2, Elijah Groeneweg and Brenton Thomas 2.5/2, Landon Elwood and James Gellerman, 2/1, and Jordan Ortega 1.5/1.
"I think our kids did a good job preparing during the week and had a good identity of what North Butler was going to do based on formations," Eilers said about the defense. "To play that hard and with that much effort, I could not have been more proud of what we did defensively."
CLASS A DISTRICT 1
• Oct. 29 Playoff Results
H-M-S 26, North Butler 7
West Hancock 31, South O'Brien 7
• Pod #1 Third Round Game Nov. 5
H-M-S (8-2) at West Hancock (10-0)