Pain and Respect fuels Spearville to big win

Bailey Sites (22) runs against St. Francis in Friday's game. (by Everett Royer,
By: Conor Nicholl for
Nov 5, 2017

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SPEARVILLE – Matt Fowler played for Chuck Lambert at Sterling College, a Smith Center alum who learned smash-mouth principles and having class from legendary Redmen coach Roger Barta. In a similar vein, Fowler has built an elite program at Spearville behind its mantra “pain and respect.”

On Friday, No. 2 Spearville delivered an impressive 42-20 home win against No. 4 St. Francis in the first round of the Eight-Man, Division I playoffs.

“We always say that when we get done playing somebody, no matter what the scoreboard says, we want to see two things in their opponents’ eyes when they are finished,” Fowler said. “We want to see pain, because we played physical football and hit them all game long, and we want to see respect, because we played classy and did things the right way.”

Last season, St. Francis beat Spearville, 36-30, in the state semifinals in a memorable contest that came down to the final seconds.

This year, St. Francis briefly led 6-0 early before Spearville scored 34 straight points behind its run-heavy single wing attack that controlled the game, especially in a 14-play, 65-yard scoring drive that took up 6 minutes, 40 seconds of the second quarter.

“Lancer football is three yards at a time, and it’s fun when it gets rolling like that,” Fowler said.

The Lancers, with a significant depth advantage, had 49 carries for 247 yards, and limited St. Francis to 26 carries for 91 yards.

“They did an excellent job tonight of getting inside our backfield,” St. Francis coach Rodney Yates said. “We didn’t get off the ball well and get on their side of the field, especially when we were trying to run. I just felt like our game plan was a very good one, we just didn’t execute, and we just didn’t play well, and that’s again because you are playing a good football team.”

Multiple Lancers had cramps and three players at least 60 rushing yards, led by senior Bailey Sites with 17 carries for 99 yards and a pair of scores. St. Francis, after some early season turmoil, had just 13 players dressed and finished 7-2. Spearville had 26, a key Fowler labeled “a big difference.”

“We are able to have a good scout team during practice,” Sites said. “We have enough players to basically have two teams, and that helps a lot, and I give a lot of credit to our scout team. They push us hard. They are probably one of the toughest teams we’ve faced all year.”

Because of cramps to junior quarterback Kolby Stein, senior Waylon Strecker stepped in and threw a 58-yard scoring pass to sophomore Carson Rich for the second half’s first score. As well, Strecker caught a 44-yard touchdown pass and Sites threw a two-point conversion. Overall, Spearville finished 8 of 9 passing for 178 yards and three TDs.

“The offense we run, you’ve got to prepare for the run, but then we will hit you with the pass,” Rich said.

Spearville held St. Francis all-state senior Tate Busse without an offensive touch until a 20-yard pass with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter. He had eight catches for 170 yards in the win last year.

“We didn’t really base a ton of it just revolving around him, but on whether or not they had an empty backfield or not really had a lot to do with it,” Fowler said. “They run so many different formations at you that honestly what we did was we just simplified a lot, and I think that helped us to not get confused, and to know where their playmakers were, and to be able to get there, and we have good athletes back there.”

Busse eventually scored two touchdowns and finished with six touches for 122 yards. Nearly all of his big plays came late with the game decided.

“We just knew that he was one of the top receivers,” Sites said. “He is a quick guy, and we just got done today. I give all the credit to our coach and our d-line.”

St. Francis sophomore quarterback Brady Dinkel finished 11 of 29 for 212 yards with two touchdowns against four interceptions. Sites had three of the picks.

Sainty struggled with drops on a cold evening with little wind. Yates said St. Francis finished 2 of 8 on red zone opportunities and had trouble with Spearville’s defensive looks, including outside blitzes.

“Coach Fowler is one of the premier eight-man coaches, and to beat him, you’ve got to have it all together,” Yates said. “You’ve got to take care of the football, and you’ve got to capitalize when you get your chances.”

The first Sites pick came in the first quarter on a deep pass to Busse, the second INT was at the Lancer 2-yard line with 80 seconds left in the second quarter, and the third pick bounced off a St. Francids player in the fourth.

Additionally, Strecker intercepted Dinkel in the end zone in the third quarter.

“I just know where the receivers are at all times,” Sites said. “I just see where the quarterback’s eyes are, and I just go for it.”

Spearville improved to 10-0 overall and 61-31 in Fowler’s nine seasons. The Lancers have won double-digit contests four straight years. Since the start of ’15, Spearville is 34-1. For the fourth straight fall, Spearville will play host to Central Plains (9-1) in the second round.

“It’s always a big accomplishment to see them in the second round of the playoffs,” Sites said. “Just proves how far we made it. This year, we’ve been a very doubted team. Not a lot of people expected us to go this far, but it’s always good to see our friends over there at CP.”

The Oilers defeated Spearville, 42-40, in the ’14 playoffs en route to the state title. The following year, Spearville won 58-28 and captured the state crown. Last season, the Lancers won in Claflin, 58-26.

“Central Plains obviously is going to be extremely motivated to play us,” Fowler said. “I mean extremely, and we are going to have to be able to match that motivation. … A lot like us, they will come at you physically wave after wave, and we’ve got to get prepared for that.”

At the beginning of each practice, Fowler asks: “Who hits harder?” The Lancers respond: “We do.” The players have a compression shirt under their shoulder pads that has Pain on one sleeve and Respect on the other.

“You hit them, you lift them back up again, then you hit them again, lift them back up, pain and respect,” Sites said.

St. Francis led 6-0 at the 9:37 mark of the first quarter when SF senior Wyatt Hackler made a great catch in the end zone for a 32-yard score.

On the next offensive play, Spearville senior Alex Fisher ran 47 yards around end for an 8-6 lead. After a Sites interception, the Lancers went 60 yards in 11 plays (including two penalties) and yielded a 20-yard TD pass from Stein to Rich.

“We just had to respond,” Rich said. “Coaches prepared us all week for it.”

With 9:37 left in the half, Spearville had its 14-play drive that culminated with a 4-yard run from Sites and a 22-6 halftime advantage. Yates said the drive “wore us down.”

“We want those 13-, 15-play drives, that wear you out, take the time out, score, make you not what to play,” Rich said.

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