Similar teams Spearville, Ness City to open District 7

Pedro Flores is just one of many options for Ness City's offense. (Everett Royer
By: Conor Nicholl for
Oct 2, 2014

Share This Story:

Ness City’s top four rushers, Pedro Flores, Dylan Hamilton, quarterback Tanner McMillen and Jacob Hoss, all have between 24 and 36 carries. Flores has 291 rushing yards, Hamilton 286 and McMillen 266. Hoss, who has missed a game, checks in at 116.

“It’s kind of who is hitting that night, and we try to get the ball to these guys and give everybody an opportunity to make plays,” coach Chris Bamberger said. “Really, I feel confident in whoever touches the ball back there.”

Spearville takes a parallel approach. Junior quarterback Nathan Stein has a team-high 37 rushes, while sophomore Luke Heskamp stands second with 33 rushes. Freshman Bailey Sites, on just 19 carries, leads the team with 281 rushing yards. Stein has 235 and Heskamp has 232. Junior Brandon Davis, who has also missed one game and part of another, has 13 carries for 182 yards.

“That’s a luxury that more people don’t have,” Spearville coach Matt Fowler said of the Lancers’ depth that features 36 total players on the roster.

Loading the player...

The backfield isn’t the only similarity between the two schools. Stein and McMillen are veteran quarterbacks who have started multiple years. Both coaches are pleased with an experienced, yet unheralded offensive lines. As well, Ness City has a large roster with 32 players; most eight-man schools have in the lower 20s.

Fowler is in his sixth season at Spearville; Bamberger is fifth at Ness City. Both, each in their first head coaching positions, have made big turnarounds with their programs. One area, though, is a big contrast: turnovers. Spearville had just four turnovers in an 8-2 season last year and only one this year.

“We’ve made good decisions throwing the ball when we have taken our shots there,” Fowler said. “Running the ball, we’ve protected it pretty well to this point.”

Ness City had five turnovers in a 26-22 loss to Victoria last week, a game the Eagles won the yardage battle 381-230, but had two interceptions late in the fourth quarter.

“You can’t do anything wrong when you play a good football team like Victoria,” Bamberger said.

This Friday, Ness City (3-1) plays host to Spearville, 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in Eight-Man, Division I in the District 7 opener.  Ness City has won the only two meetings in the last 10 seasons, 38-12 in 2010 and 62-16 in 2011.

The Eagles and district foe Hodgeman County (4-0) are receiving votes. Hodgeman County is the defending state runner-up, and has won 18 straight regular season contests. Spearville will play at Hodgeman County in Week 8, and Ness City hosts the Longhorns in Week 9. All three teams rank between second and ninth in scoring offense in the classification, according to

“Hodgeman County is the best team in the west until somebody proves otherwise,” Fowler said. “Sure they lost a couple of kids, but they are just always tough and hard-nosed. Coach (Matt) Housman, he is a good friend of mine. He does an awesome job with them over there. … It’s just like they reload every year, and they kind of thrive on being overlooked a little bit. They don’t get the credit that they think is due them, it just kind of pushes them on and makes them tougher.”

Spearville wasn’t the favorite in its Week 1 neutral site game against Madison, but the Lancers scored in the final minute on a Davis 26-yard touchdown run to win 32-28.

“The thing that stood out to me about that drive was just our kids’ confidence once Madison scored, that we can go down and do that also,” Fowler said.

Madison dropped from preseason No. 1 and is now ranked No. 5. Davis scored the game-winning TD despite a hip flexor; Fowler called the performance one of the running back’s best games of his career. Davis had just one carry in Week 2, didn’t play in Week 3, and played very well last Friday night.

“He is as close to 100 percent as you are going to get,” Fowler said.

Spearville’s offensive line features seniors Reegan Kliessen, the anchor, Hunter Stephenson and Kaden Stein, junior Dakota Kreger, sophomore Kyler Stein and Wyatt Strecker. Everyone except Kyler Stein is a returning starter.

 “I have been really pleased with those guys,” Fowler said.

Ness City counters with an experienced group that includes seniors Dakota Stephens, Devon McInnis and Kyle Harris, all returning starters.

“That’s really where it starts,” Bamberger said. “… We push those guys really hard. It’s hard for them to really feel good about everything. They are always working hard and trying to continue to improve. When they have a good night, we have a good night.”

They’ve opened holes for a running game that has put up 277 yards per game and 7.6 yards a carry. Flores has scored 10 TDs after he was bothered by a knee injury last year and finished with 400 rushing yards and four rushing TDs. Ness City averaged 210 rushing yards a contest and 5.7 yards a carry on a 5-4 team in 2013.

“They are really not selfish, so any opportunity they get, they love, and they are never upset,” Bamberger said. “I don’t feel like they are ever checking carry counts and numbers and yardage and things like that. That’s always pleasant to work with kids with that mentality.”

Use your Facebook account to add a comment or start a discussion. Posts are subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.