Spearville, Hodgeman County ready for top 5 showdown

Spearville junior Nathan Stein & Hodgeman Co freshman Jacob Salmans. (by Joey Bahr & Jennifer Shiew)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Oct 23, 2014

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Hodgeman County coach Matt Housman doesn’t know if the polls motivate his Longhorn squad or not. However, Housman said Hodgeman County is “kind of used to” lower rankings and being underrated the last couple of years.

Hodgeman County, the defending Eight-Man, Division I state runner-up, is 7-0 but ranked No. 5 in the classification. The Longhorns have only been ranked for the last couple of weeks.

Hodgeman County has won every game by the 45-point margin against the second-weakest strength of schedule in Eight-Man, Division I, according to preppowerindex.com.

“You play 100 percent every play or as hard as you can every play,” Housman, 41-9 as the Longhorns’ head coach, said.  “You don’t play down to a team’s level, and that’s what I think we haven’t done yet. Sometimes, you have a team that does that – that plays down to another team’s level. That’s something we haven’t had, so even though we have blowouts, we haven’t stepped down.”

The Longhorns are 19-1 in the last 20 games and have won 21 straight regular season contests. Spearville coach Matt Fowler has repeatedly called Hodgeman County the “measuring stick” in the west until someone proves  otherwise.

“They are always just so tough, so physical,” Fowler said. “They are a great team.”

However, in the polls, the Longhorns rank as the third team in the west behind No. 3 Central Plains and fourth-ranked Spearville, both also 7-0.

This Friday, Spearville plays host to Hodgeman County in a huge District 7 contest. Both teams are 3-0 in district; Ness City is 5-2, 2-1. Ness City hosts Hodgeman County in Week 9.

Spearville has played the No. 22 SOS and has a Week 1 victory against Madison (32-28) and a Week 5 win versus Ness City (50-38), teams that are a combined 10-4. The Lancers have outscored teams 380-110.

Spearville has lost five in a row to Jetmore/Hodgeman County, the closest a 38-14 defeat in 2013.

“I think it does help us out, because we have seen some really quality opponents and they have exposed some things that we needed to get better and improve on,” Fowler said of the schedule. “Have we not played teams like that, we might not have known those areas that we were a little bit weaker in and needed to work on, and give us a chance to shore those things up a little bit. I know it’s helped us immensely, No. 1, just challenging us, seeing  what we are made out of, and also just giving us those opportunities to improve things.”

Hodgeman County ranks No. 1 in offense and No. 2 in defense in the classification, outscoring teams 410-50. The Longhorns have averaged 393 yards of total offense per contest and are balanced with 178 passing yards a game and 215 yards rushing a contest.

Senior Kolt Washburn has 60 carries for 818 yards and 14 scores, while senior Will Crabill has 71 carries for 386 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Seniors Brennan Harms and David Nuss, both captains, start at guard, and junior Trevor Briggs is at center. Briggs is 6-foot-1, 275 pounds, Harms stands at 6-foot-1, 250 and Nuss is 5-foot-10, 168.

“We look pretty tough on defense,” Housman said. “Offensively, we are balanced. I think this is definitely the most balanced team I have ever had as far as every skill player is a threat. You bring in one from the sideline in spread packages, you have got to five to six guys.”

Hodgeman County assistant coach Oliver Salmans was an assistant for legendary Hanston coach Jerry Slaton; Housman played for Salmans and Slaton. Salmans had a successful run as head coach at Pawnee Heights, too. Salmans has now served as assistant for Housman, and his son, freshman Jacob, has played great as the starting quarterback.

Jacob Salmans has completed 62 of 92 passes for 1,243 yards with 17 scores against three interceptions.

“Just how calm he is – he is a very, very smart kid,” Housman said. “He knows the game of football. If he didn’t live football, he probably wouldn’t be able to sit there and have the success that he has had, but he understands what role he needs to bring to the team. He knows he doesn’t have to be a great runner. He knows that he has plenty of great runners around him. He just knows that he has to stay calm and get everybody the ball.”

Fowler, with multiple skill players and a veteran offensive line, has been pleased with the Lancers’ offensive efficiency and special teams in recent games. The Lancers played very well on third down versus Ness City, and had a 65-yard kickoff return for a score against WaKeeney-Trego last week.

Spearville scored every possession against Ness City, except just before half and a drive late in the game that stalled inside the Eagle red zone.

“A lot of times, it comes down to how well can you move it on third down,” Fowler said. “Because you are going to get put in situations against a good team.”

Spearville has just two turnovers this season and six in the last two years. Hodgeman County has six this year, but is plus-8 in turnover margin.

“We have continued to improve taking care of the ball and doing things well whether are running or passing,” Fowler said. “I think we have really grown in that aspect. Then, I think our special teams play has improved quite a bit also. We have done some good things in the kick return game in the last couple of weeks.”

Seven players have tallied a rushing score, and sophomore Luke Heskamp as 66 carries for 638 yards for 12 scores, and junior Nathan Stein has accounted for 1,033 total yards and 16 offensive scores.

Freshman Bailey Sites is the No. 3 rusher with 24 carries for 344 yards and six scores, but that’s virtually all come in mop-up duty. He never had a carry against Ness City because of Spearville’s talent.

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