Spearville tops Hanover 62-16 to capture 8M-I crown

Spearville's Nathan Stein runs for a TD in the 8M-I title game. (Everett Royer, KSportsImages.com)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 21, 2015

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NEWTON – In the season’s first three months, Spearville had used a huge first or second quarter run to build big leads.

On Saturday, Spearville again delivered a massive second quarter run en route to a 62-16 win against Hanover in the Eight-Man, Division I sub-state championship game at Newton’s Fischer Field. The game was tied at 16 with 5 minutes, 52 seconds remaining before intermission.

Then, Spearville scored 30 unanswered points before the break. The game ended with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the third quarter by the 45-point mercy rule.

“We got a couple of quick stops,” Spearville coach Matt Fowler said. “Once we got a couple of quick stops, it was kids making plays. We have such good athletes in all spots that we just kind of come at you in waves and waves and waves, and if you ever pick a play where you try to relax, then it can start snowballing on you in a hurry, and I think  that’s what happened right towards the end of the half.”

Spearville, led by its big play ability with it run-heavy single-wing offense, had four scores of at least 38 yards in the first half.

“Our coach, I think he is the best coach in the state of Kansas,” senior quarterback Nathan Stein said. “He gets us more prepared than anybody I know. He says, ‘He prepares the supper for us, we’ve just got to come out and eat.’”

The Lancers finished 13-0 and captured the first football title in school annals. Hanover went 12-1 and collected its second straight runner-up finish.

“That second quarter, we almost couldn’t get out there fast enough,” Hanover coach Matt Heuer said. “Because they did some really good things about taking opportunities that were given to them and capitalized on them. That’s what good teams do. Coming in, we knew that they had done that almost every single game where they had one quarter where they just kind of blew it wide open. It was no different today. They did an exceptional job.”

For the third straight contest, Hanover opened with a turnover when the Wildcats lost a fumble. Spearville recovered at its own 32-yard line. On the next play, speedy junior running back Luke Heskamp took a direct snap and broke through for a 48-yard touchdown run. He finished with 12 carries for 104 yards and two scores.

“Just carrying out fakes, hiding the ball from the other team,” Heskamp said of the offense. “I probably wouldn’t want to play defense on it.”

Hanover, led by junior quarterback Will Bruna, the single season eight-man record holder for passing yards and passing touchdowns, tied the game on a 13-play, 69-yard drive. Bruna scored on a 2-yard run for an 8-8 tie with 5:15 left in the first quarter.

On the next drive, Spearville bumped the lead to 16-8 on a 1-yard run from senior quarterback Nathan Stein.

After the Lancers stopped Hanover on fourth down on a Heskamp tackle for loss, Stein committed the Lancers’ only turnover all year when he threw an interception. Hanover tied the score at 16 with 5:57 left in the first half on a 3-yard run by Bruna.

Bruna finished 23 of 34 passing for 171 yards but never had a completion longer than 18 yards.

The game quickly changed.

“We got it back to even,” Heuer said. “Just one or two breaks that they got, and they probably created them on their own, but those breaks just kind of started a free for all.”

On the next drive, Stein, the Lancers’ veteran, shifty signal caller, delivered a 46-yard touchdown run when he broke several tackles for a 24-16 lead.

“We had a couple big plays, and we kept the energy up, and I think we just took it out of them,” Spearville senior lineman Dakota Kreger said. “We just kept making plays.”

Stein finished with 14 carries for 133 yards and three scores. He went 2 of 4 passing for 50 yards and a touchdown.

“He is great,” Heskamp said. “It was definitely an honor to play with him for all these years. Especially even starting in junior high, he is kind of a role model. Just following in his footsteps.”

After a Hanover turnover on downs, Spearville sophomore Bailey Sites broke through on the first play for a 38-yard score. Following a Wildcat punt, Stein scored a 51-yard burst down the sideline when he hurdled two defenders. Fowler yelled at Stein to get out of bounds and stop the clock, but Stein never heard him. Spearville led 40-16 with 53 seconds left in the first half.

“That run really surprised me,” Kreger said. “He is a great back, and he always runs hard, and even if we miss our block, he will still get there.”

The Lancers picked off Hanover off a halfback pass and then scored again shortly before halftime. Stein lofted a pass that Hanover nearly picked off. However, it was deflected into the air, and senior Brandon Davis hauled it in for 30 yards.

On the next play, Davis scored on a 12-yard pass from Stein for a 46-16 lead at the break. Two early third-quarter scores – a 6-yard run by Stein and seven yards from Heskamp – ended the contest.

“When we scored, and then got a stop the first time, I think that was probably the biggest thing,” Fowler said. “When you score, and then you get a stop, I think that was probably the momentum shift, and then we started busting off some big runs and really getting off the ball. That was it from there.”

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