Spearville visits Hodgeman County in Game of the Week

Can Jacob Salmans lead Hodgeman County past Spearville for first time since 2013? (Jennifer Shiew)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Sep 7, 2017

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Junior Luke Shiew delivered a standout sophomore season when he led Hodgeman County with 114 tackles, more than twice any of his teammates. This year, the fullback/middle linebacker returned as one of the top players for the Longhorns, ranked third in Eight-Man, Division II after a 5-4 season in 2016.

“Luke is 100 miles an hour all the time, at practice, during games,” Hodgeman County coach Matt Housman said.

Last Friday, Housman noticed a difference in Shiew. Housman talked to Shiew, who said he was fine. Shiew delivered a team-best 12 tackles with a 56-6 victory versus Leoti-Wichita County.

At halftime, Housman talked to Shiew more in-depth. Housman decided to not play Shiew in the second half.

“Luke is very, very tough, but he had just a little bit of a look like it might not be OK once I finally got a chance to talk to him,” Housman said.

On Saturday, Shiew went to the doctor, who sent him to Wichita. Shiew’s career is now over.

“His status is done,” Housman said. “He fractured his neck in three spots. This may have been old fractures that he had.”

On Friday, Hodgeman County plays host to longtime rival Spearville, ranked fourth in Division I. The teams are in neighboring counties and the coaches and players are close.

“This game just can’t come fast enough,” Housman said. “I think we just need it as a team to get back out there and play again, because it’s different without him there.”

The Longhorns are 9-5 in the last 14 games versus the Lancers, though Spearville has won the last three (56-28, 46-0, 38-6). Hodgeman County’s 38-14 victory against Spearville on Oct. 4, 2013 is the Lancers’ last regular season loss.

“They have our utmost respect when we see them on the schedule,” coach Matt Fowler said. “They are such an extremely well-coached team. Coach Housman, Coach (Oliver) Salmans, they do things right over there, and they get them to play extremely physical, but this is a team definitely in Hodgeman County that has got a great shot to go a long ways, I think.”

Spearville, known for big first halves and a great running game with its single wing offense, is 8-2, 10-1, 13-0 and 11-1 in the previous four years. The Lancers opened with a 48-0 home win against Hill City after they scored 40 first-quarter points. Spearville, which generally has very few turnovers, had two fumbles (both recovered by the Lancers) and two penalties, one on the opening kickoff.

Spearville has a brand-new offensive line and finished 25 rushes for 289 yards in its misdirection offense.

“I felt pretty good about Friday night, and I started looking at the film,” Fowler said. “We didn’t block very well. I mean, we really didn’t, and we had some blown assignments up front with who we are supposed to block.

“We are breaking in several new starters up front,” he added. “That was something we struggled with. We struggled with some blocking assignments early and not being as physical as we needed to be, and we still succeeded sometimes just because the defense didn’t know where the ball was.”

Spearville has seven seniors with Wyatt Stimpert at center, Levi Stein at guard and Nate Heeke at end. Sophomore Carson Rich starts at end, and junior Albert Evins at tackle. Defensively, Spearville doesn’t have much size and will generally rotate six players on the line. Evins plays nose, while Stein and Heeke at end. Junior back Kolby Stein had five carries for 194 yards and two scores.

“He’s a great runner, and he is very good at bouncing off of contact,” Fowler said. “Really, his plays went big, because we try to kind of take what the defense is giving us, and Hill City was really trying hard to take away the outside from us. Things that hit in-between the tackles were bigger, and a lot of times he is the guy that carries the ball through there on a lot of those actions.”

Spearville’s continued high offensive output comes from the scheme, and the Lancers’ coaching staff.

“Our coaching staff, I’m in a lot of debt to them,” Fowler said.

High-energy Chris Sohm is the most-tenured assistant and has served the last eight of Fowler’s nine seasons.

“I wouldn’t want to share the sideline with anybody else,” Fowler said. “Coach Sohm has been amazing for us, and a big part of our success.”

Sohm coordinates the defense. He and Andrew Kempke coach the offensive line. Fowler does the backs, and assistant Boyd Hutchinson coaches the centers.

Hutchinson, a veteran coach at several schools, had served as Hill City’s head coach and ran the single wing. When practice splits into position groups, the centers and backfield work together in one section, and guards/tackles/ends are in another.

As well, Hutchinson will stand on the sideline and serve as referee. He will call penalties, such as holding and offsides.

“That really helps us play cleaner, too,” Fowler said.

From ’14-16, Spearville ranked third among all eight-man teams in scoring offense (54.2 points/game) and second in defense (13.3).

Hodgeman County was tenth in offense at 46.6 points per contest and 12th in defense (21.4). Four-year starting quarterback Jacob Salmans is a constant for the Longhorns.

“One of the more intelligent quarterbacks we have gone up with over the years,” Fowler said.

Salmans opened 11 of 12 passing for 192 yards with two scores against no interceptions. His brother, sophomore Eli, had 13 carries for a team-high 93 yards. Shiew tallied four carries for 13 yards.

Without Shiew, senior end/linebacker Treyton Coats (11 tackles) is one who will likely step up into a bigger role. In six weeks, Shiew will again see the doctor, and Housman said the team is praying all “looks good” so he won’t need surgery.

“He is out, and that’s a big emotional toll for our team,” Housman said. “Practice one day was really tough. Of course he was there, because he is not going to miss practice, but he’s there in a neck brace. He is able to walk around.”

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