TABOR - The Fremont-Mills defense held East Mills to minus-23 yards on its first five possessions and built a 30-0 lead before the end of the first quarter in a regular-season finale for both teams rife with playoff implications in Tabor on Friday.
With the win the Knights (9-0) wrap up an undefeated regular-season and their first district title in 28 years. The Wolverines (6-3), who could have won a share of the district title with a win and a Stanton loss, were already guaranteed a playoff spot.
“I’m proud of where the boys are at this point in time,” said Fremont-Mills coach Jeremy Christiansen after the game, whose team is the No. 1 seed and will host Boyer Valley in the first round of the state playoffs on Wednesday. “The district title is nice to have. We had a good game plan. We started a little slow, but we stuck to the game plan of staying physical on offense and defense and it worked out.”
Both teams shared a slow start, trading punts on their first two possessions each. The Knights actually went three-and-out on their first three possessions before the offense got in gear. After holding East Mills to its second three-and-out, the Knights took the ball at their own 37-yard line and marched 53 yards in six plays, capped by A.J. Scarborough’s touchdown plunge from a yard out. All seven plays were on the ground for Fremont-Mills.
A shanked Wolverine punt gave the Knights the ball at the East Mills 27 yard line on their next possession. Scarborough didn’t waste any time taking advantage of the field position, as he darted into the end zone two plays later from 21 yards out. The Knights missed the two- point conversion but still led 14-0 with 3:39 to go in the opening quarter.
The Knights, however, weren’t content to sit on their lead. After forcing the Wolverines to punt for the fourth time in the quarter, Knight running back Nate Meier rumbled 30 yards on the very next play for his first of four first half touchdown runs.
An interception by Knight linebacker Logan Wood of a Luke Schafer pass put the Knights inside the East Mills’ 10 with less than a minute to go in the opening frame. Three plays later Meier bulled his way in from two yards out.
The Knights entered the game with averaging better than 276 yards rushing per game and 7.6 per carry. Christiansen said his team’s game plan was deliberate and exactly to their strengths. In the first half, the Knights ran the ball 31 times for 316 yards and passed just three times.
“We wanted to attack with what we do best,” said Christiansen of his physical game-plan. “We’ve heard the whole time they are a very fast football team, and they are, and they’re a very disciplined football team. We wanted to go right at them.
“They’re a very good tackling team. They did a good job tackling our big backs and we struggled up front early, they did some stunts and things that confused us. Once we got that figured out, it helped us out a lot.”
The Knights held on a fourth-and-one and picked off another Schafer pass on the Wolverines? next two possessions, turning both into scores.
The Wolverines, who entered the game averaging better than 390 yards a game, netted minus-13, zero, minus-10, minus-1 and one yard on its first five possession. Four of the drives ended in punts and a fifth ended with a Knight interception. They finally got on the board late in the half when Schafer found Kaleb Richter on a 12-yard pass and Duysen on a two-yard dart.
But it was too little too late for the Wolverines. The Knights took a 49-14 lead into halftime when Meier raced 65 yards down the sideline for his fourth touchdown of the game.
Fremont-Mills out gained the Wolverines 438 to 198 yards. The Knights harassed Schafer into his worst passing game of the season, sacking him three times, picking off two passes and holding him to 9-of-33 completion for 118 yards.
The play was not without its cost for the Knights. Meier was flagged on the score for high-stepping into the end zone on the play. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was the junior’s second of the half resulting in his ejection from the game. According to Iowa High School Athletic Association rules, Meier now must sit out tonight?s first round state playoff game against Boyer Valley (6-3).
Christian declined to comment on Meier’s ejection but his loss will be significant. The 6-foot-2, 220 pounder left the game with 227 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He leads the Knights in rushing, touchdowns and is second on the team in tackles and first in tackles for loss from his nose guard position on the season.
Christian commended the play of his team for not letting the play distract them.
“We have a lot of players who stepped up and made some good plays for us and were able to continue our success,” said Christiansen.
The Wolverines travel to Coon Rapids-Bayard at for its first round match up in the Eight-Man Playoffs on Wednesday.
The Knights will host Boyer Valley. Both games will kick off at 7 p.m.
Christiansen, a 2000 Boyer Valley graduate, looks forward to the challenge..
“Obviously, they are a big team and Coach (Jay) Peterson does a great job both offensively and defensively,” said Christiansen. “They move kids around, they’re long and lanky, they can cover some ground. They’re physical just like we are. We’re looking forward to the contest.”
EM 00 14 06 00 20
FM 30 19 07 00 56
FM - A.J. Scarborough, 1 run (conversion good).
FM - Scarborough, 23 run (conversion failed).
FM - Nate Meier, 30 run (conversion good).
FM - Meier, 2 run (conversion good).
FM - Meier, 29 run (kick failed).
FM - Scarborough to Joey Carlson, 17 pass (kick good).
EM - Luke Schafer to Kaleb Richter, 12 pass (kick blocked).
EM - Schafer to Daniel Duysen, 20 pass (conversion good).
FM - Meier, 65 run (kick failed).
EM - Nick Pittmon, 50 run (kick failed).
FM - Logan Wood, 1 run (kick good).