Hanover survives late Hodgeman County rally in 8M-II

Photo by Dacey Hagedorn
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 25, 2017

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NEWTON – Hanover coach Matt Heuer took off his headset and rubbed his temples before he joined the postgame handshake line in the Eight-Man, Division II championship game Saturday.

His team had a similar muted celebration after a 54-48 victory against Hodgeman County at Newton’s Fischer Field. Hanover led 48-14 midway through the third quarter before the Longhorns had a massive comeback, including 26 fourth-quarter points.

Hodgeman County scored with seven seconds left on a 12-yard pass from senior quarterback Jacob Salmans to senior Trevor Morgan. The Longhorns, who had already recovered one onside kick, nearly recovered a second one.

However, the kick stayed underneath the grasp of sophomore Eli Salmans and rolled out of bounds. After the customary postgame team photo on the field, Heuer momentarily stood by himself and rubbed his temples again.

“When you get a finish like that, it’s just nice to just kind of relax,” Heuer said. “I think that’s kind of what we did there at the end. As a coaching staff over their headsets, it’s like, ‘Wow, this probably got way closer than it should have.’ But I am proud of the way that our kids performed.”

Hanover bumped its winning streak to 25 straight and ended the year at 13-0 for the third undefeated title in school history.

“We always preach to our kids to bend and not break, and I thought our kids did a good job of continuing to bend,” Heuer said. “We probably bent a little more than we wanted to, but at the same time, I thought our kids did a good job at the end of making them earn what they were trying to get and not giving up the big play for the most part.”

The Wildcats moved to 4-3 in state games under Heuer, including a 4-0 mark in Division II titles.

“A huge sigh, because obviously I didn’t want to leave our seniors’ lasting mark as being the team that choked up by (34),” senior lineman Carlos Emanuel said. “So thanking God that He allowed us to win.”

Hanover led 24-0 early in the second quarter and 32-8 at halftime. The Wildcats finished 6 of 7 on 2-point conversions. Hodgeman County went 3 of 7 and missed its final three conversions.

“Preach to our kids all the time – two-point conversions are the biggest part of this game,” Heuer said.

Hodgeman County (10-3) received a standout game from Salmans, a four-year starter.

“Some plays went our way in the second half,” Longhorn coach Matt Housman said. “A lot more than in the first half. Jacob – that’s about the best (performance) right there. He’s been doing it for a long time, the running and the passing. He is a very good player. He had a very good game, especially second half.”

He finished 14 of 22 for 219 yards with four touchdowns against one interception. Additionally, he rushed 25 times for 151 yards and two scores.

“Not the way I wanted to go out, but right next to it,” Salmans said. “It was great. It was a fun game for us. … I really enjoyed it honestly.”

Hanover junior quarterback Daiken Stallbaumer battled through injury for a big performance. He went 13 of 17 for 232 yards and three scores. He rushed 26 times for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Last year, Stallbaumer earned all-state honors at defensive back with 10 interceptions as Hanover set the eight-man single season record for INTs with 30. This year, he had just one interception entering Saturday and had played little defense due to his health.

Stallbaumer battled a torn left (non-throwing) labrum injury since Week 2 and a jammed right shoulder that occurred in the semifinals. In the third quarter, he delivered a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown, and recovered a Salmans fumble with 4:19 left.

 “It was pretty sore, but it loosened up today, which allowed me to throw the ball pretty well,” Stallbaumer said of the right shoulder. “Throughout the game, there wasn’t very much (pain), not till the end when I started having to come up and make a play and tackle. But throwing the ball, it felt very good.”

Additionally, Emanuel, a Division I prospect, tweaked his knee during the contest and had to battle through.

Hanover controlled the game early behind a variety of big plays, especially on third down. The Wildcats converted their first 10 third downs. Hanover led 48-14 with 5 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.

Salmans quickly tossed a 43-yard scoring pass to Morgan to cut the score to 48-22 entering the fourth quarter. Hodgeman County then tallied 26 points in the final 12 minutes.

“We knew we weren’t getting the breaks, and we knew sooner or later, there’s a chance that we are going to catch a break,” Salmans said. “We just didn’t catch enough.”

With 10 minutes, 55 seconds left, Salmans again found Morgan for a 48-yard TD pass that made the score 48-30.

“We relaxed a little bit, and then they caught fire, while we were cold, so obviously that doesn’t mix well,” Emanuel said.

On the first offensive play after the score, Hanover responded with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Stallbaumer to senior Kevin Diederich to bump the margin back to 24 points.

Hodgeman County quickly tallied with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Salmans to senior Aaron Sherrill. The Longhorns recovered the onside kick, and sophomore Eli Salmans scored from nine yards out. With 6:34 left, Hodgeman County trailed 54-42.

“Their defensive line started wearing down a little bit,” Jacob Salmans said. “Then, we could get a little bit of time to throw the ball. Then, our line did a great job.”

The Longhorns recovered a fumble and had the ball at its own 36-yard line with 5 minutes, 14 seconds left.

On 4th-and-1, Jacob Salmans fumbled and Stallbaumer recovered. Hodgeman County eventually regained possession with 1:40 remaining after a turnover on downs.

The Longhorns needed 10 plays, including a fourth-and-1 conversion, before Salmans found Morgan for the final score. Morgan had six catches for 137 yards and three TDs.

“Once the momentum swung, it was kind of hold on for dear life,” Heuer said.

On the onside kick, Eli Salmans appeared to have a chance to collect the ball.

“Just a little too hot to the outside,” Jacob said. “Thought he was going to get it, but he didn’t, and that’s just one of the breaks that didn’t go our way, I guess.”

Then, Stallbaumer kneed out the final play and felt similarly to Heuer.

“The exact same thing,” he said. “It’s just big relief.”

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Hanover, Hodgeman County