The East Mills football team totaled 505 yards in a 66-6 victory over Essex in Eight-Man, District 8 action on Friday.
The Wolverines (6-2 overall, 5-1 in the district) used their balanced offense - they finished with 238 yards rushing and 277 passing - to build a 54-0 halftime lead. No varsity players took a snap in the second half.
“After the Nishnabotna game we started working really well and here against Essex, we kind of wanted to make sure we were getting our offense as sharp as we could because we know we have a big game this week,” said Irwin. “We really wanted to be pretty sharp against Essex because of that and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
Sharp would describe the play of quarterback Luke Schafer. The junior completed 22-of-32 passes for 277 yards and five touchdown tosses. He added 84 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. In the past four games, all Wolverine wins, Schafer has completed 73 percent of his passes for 865 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Daniel Duysen was Schafer’s favorite target, snagging 10 passes for 144 yards and three scores. Kaleb Richter and Chris Pittmon each added touchdown catches.
“It’s sometimes a hard thing to do to keep balance when you have a really good quarterback and some good receivers so we have to consciously make that effort to be balanced,” Irwin said.
In typical fashion the Wolverines’ offense was multiple against Essex. In addition to its 505 total yards and no turnovers, East Mills had seven different players carry the ball and six different players catch a pass.
That sort of balance and unpredictability makes the Wolverines hard to prepare for, Irwin said.
“It has to,” he said. “The big thing that helps us is if our run game isn’t working for us we can start throwing the ball. And if our run game is working, we can continue to do it.
“And when you have multiple kids who can catch the ball, you can’t just double one kid or put your best cover guy on one guy because then we’ll go to somebody else. It’s a nice position to be in.”
The Wolverines will head to Tabor on Friday for a showdown that may very well decide the District 8 championship. Fremont-Mills is 8-0 on the season thanks to a punishing, physical running a game a stingy defense allowing just 10.3 points per game this season.
“Some of the difficulties we’ve had on defense is with stopping power running game and they definitely have a power running game,” said Irwin. “They try and do a few other things and get their quarterback running and get a few other guys the ball but they primarily want to hand the ball off and be a power running team. When you have bigger guys and are able to run it, that makes it a little more difficult for teams like us that a little more finesse to stop it.”
Irwin said his team has faced to similar, physical team to the Knights in Lenox and Stanton this season. The Wolverines lost both those games, 37-19 to Lenox and 30-20 to Stanton.
“We’ve faced those kinds of teams before but its something that’s definitely difficult to defend,” he said. “We’ll be ready. We’ve spent this weekend looking at film and thinking about something we can do to utilize what we have and to not necessarily stop their run but maybe slow it down.”