The East Mills football team sealed up the No. 2 seed in Eight man, District 8 with a 58-0 victory at Hamburg on Friday.
But more importantly than that, said East Mills coach Andy Irwin, whose team had locked up its playoff status a week earlier, was the return of senior quarterback Jake Bolton. Bolton was limited to punting only in the previous three games while he nursed a right (throwing) shoulder injury. Bolton returned under center on Friday, played most of the first half, and completed 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards and three touchdowns.
“We were really happy to have him back and ready to go for at least a half just to get some of the rust off before substate,” said Irwin. “He didn't looked like he missed a beat. And I think that has a lot to do with the experience of the guys we have and how long they've played together.”
The Wolverines (7-2 overall, 6-1 in the district) led 58-0 at
the half before the reserves took over in the second half.
“We were pretty dominant,” Irwin said. “I was very happy with how the game went. We knew we wanted to stay sharp and stay injury-free for substate and for the most part we did that. This was really our first time in four weeks with a full, healthy team.”
The win didn’t come without a cost, however. Senior offensive lineman Jacob Fritz was lost for the season with a knee injury. Filling in for Fritz will be a committee of players that include senior fullback Dylan Larsen and senior Brandon Visocky.
“We’re fortunate to have the depth we do to fill in for him but it's never a good feeling to lose a kid this late in the season,” Irwin said.
East Mills finished the game with 336 total yards to the Wildcats’ 45 total. The Wolverine defense held Hamburg to minus-15 yards on the ground and just 60 passing. The shutout was the Wolverines’ second of the season.
Running back Nathen Day eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark with 12 carries for 85 yards and three touchdowns to give the senior 1,061 yards on the season. Day also grabbed three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The Wolverines host Coon Rapids-Bayard (7-2) tonight in substate at Blackhawk Field at 7 p.m. The Crusaders defeated East Mills 43-32 in last year’s substate game. But gone from that team is all-state quarterback Johnny Schwaller and in his place is junior Michael Schwenk, who Irwin calls “a better runner and maybe a little more accurate” than Schwaller.
Schwenk leads all of eight-man with 2,581 yards passing and 47 touchdown tosses. The 5-foot-9, 150 junior has also run for 614 yards and 12 scores. For the year Coon Rapids-Bayard is averaging 53 points and nearly 400 yards per game.
“We watched three games on film of them and they threw the ball about 85 percent of the time,” said Irwin. “We don't see that much throwing in our district so they're tough to prepare for. But we've had good balance this year running and throwing, so we think we’re pretty tough to prepare for too.”
Irwin credited the play of senior running back Nathan Day (1,061 yards, 15 touchdowns running) and a senior laden offensive line led by center Matt Miller for his team’s success on the ground. Bolton, in six starts at quarterback has thrown for 1,082 yards and 18 touchdowns. Sophomore Luke Schafer, who filled in for Bolton at quarterback for three and a half games, throwing for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns, is a dangerous offensive threat every time he touches the ball.