Hanover, Hodgeman County to decide 8-Man, Div. II title

L-R: Hanover's Carlos Emanuel & Hodgeman County's Jacob Salmans (by Matt Gilmore & Jennifer Shiew)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 21, 2017

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Matt Housman was a Hanston kindergartener when he first watched Oliver Salmans play football. At that time, Housman didn’t like the sport.

Housman’s best friend was Oliver’s much younger brother, Luke. The two were at an Elks’ football game, and Luke told Matt he knew someone in the contest.

Matt didn’t believe him.

“Didn’t think there was any way anybody could actually know someone out there playing on the field, and it was Oliver, and he was having a great game,” Housman said.

After the contest, Matt went up and shook Oliver’s hand, a life-changing moment.

“I was just awed,” he said. “Those were those big ’88, ’89 teams that Hanston had, and I knew there was something exciting going on. I got pretty much hooked on football after that. I was a farm kid before that.”

Oliver Salmans, a multi-sport standout, was an all-state and Top 11 player for Hanston and longtime coach Jerry Slaton, who captured a Kansas record, six state championships at the eight-man level.

Housman went to Hanston and graduated in 2001. He played for Salmans, who started coaching back home in Housman’s eighth-grade year.

Housman is now in his seventh season as head coach for Hodgeman County, the eventual consolidation of Hanston and Jetmore. Oliver is Housman’s veteran assistant coach. All three of Salmans’ sons – senior Jacob, sophomore Eli and freshman Isaac – play key roles for the 10-2 Longhorns.

Jacob is a four-year starter at quarterback, while Eli is the starting running back. Issac filled in for Jacob when his brother was injured earlier in the year. The trio all are instrumental defensively.

“Growing up with them, Oliver has been a rock for me over the years, just coaching me,” Housman said. “I am so glad he is back, and to coach his sons. Jacob is a great kid. They are so polite, and so nice, and work hard.”

This Saturday, Hodgeman County, with a five-win improvement from 2016, will play 12-0 Hanover in the Eight-Man, Division II state championship at Newton’s Fischer Field. Game time is 3:30 p.m.

“It’s awesome,” Jacob Salmans said. “It’s the funniest year I’ve ever had in football. It’s great. I love it. I have been looking forward to this year since I found out Isaac was going to be a freshman when I’m a senior.”

The Wildcats lost the Division I title game in ’14-’15 and defeated Dighton, 68-22, for the Division II championship last fall.

In the last two weeks, Hanover, with 28 players and depth across the board, pulled away in the second half to beat Caldwell (58-12) and previously unbeaten Pike Valley (36-24).

Hanover leads Division II in scoring defense and is second in offense at 650-100 despite missing electrifying junior Thomas Atkins (nine total scores). Atkins is not expected to play Saturday.

Senior lineman Carlos Emanuel, a Division I recruit and returning all-state pick at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, paces with 76 tackles and 13.5 for loss. Junior Cade Cohorst has moved from the interior line out to end and has a team-high five interceptions. Sophomore Jonah Weber (6-4, 220) has emerged on the line.

“Keeping those fresh bodies there in the trenches where you are leaning on people all game long is extremely important,” coach Matt Heuer said. “Especially toward the end of the game where they might not have that individual that can come in and give a short spell of relief, and we are able to throw in a couple other kids.”

Heuer is 126-25 in his 13th season at his alma mater. He is 3-3 in state title games overall and 3-0 in Division II contests with victories also coming in ’08-09.

Among active eight-man coaches, Heuer is tied for the most championships as a head coach with Victoria’s Doug Oberle, Northern Valley’s Chuck Fessenden, current Solomon coach Steve Tiernan, and current Wallace County coach Kevin Ayers, who won Jetmore’s only two state crowns in ’01 and ’03.

Heuer credited the players, along with Hanover’s pride and work ethic for the success, calling the Wildcats “an exceptional group of athletes and community.”

“I would say if you say those names out loud and you include my name, I don’t know if I would belong in that sense,” Heuer said. “As me starting out and continuing over the years paying attention, those are top-notch, quality eight-man coaches, and not just eight-man coaches, but top-notch, quality coaches throughout the entire state regardless of level.”

Hanover graduated quarterback Will Bruna, the eight-man state record holder in multiple passing categories.

Junior Daiken Stallbaumer has stepped in with 35 of 55 passing for 786 yards with a 13/1 TD/INT ratio. Last week, he finished 7 of 10 passing for 162 yards with a 2/1 TD/INT ratio.

“That’s kind of been an emphasis every Friday night after our games is that we have to continue to work on our passing attack,” Heuer said. “We hadn’t had to use it much throughout the course of the season, but we did use it a little bit the other night, and without it the other night, I’d argue we’d probably wouldn’t be in this position, so it’s definitely important.”

Hanover averages 10.2 yards per play compared to 9.1 last season. A big improvement comes in the running game with experienced backs Kevin Diederich and Carter Bruna.

They’ve helped the Wildcats average 9.5 yards a carry after 6.9 in 2016. Diederich, a senior, has 54 carries for 769 yards and 19 scores. Bruna, a junior, is at 82 carries for 740 yards and 16 TDs. Stallbaumer has recorded 53 carries for 571 yards and 16 scores.

“Not just experience, but also leadership and just the way that they run the football and the way that they carry themselves on and off the field,” Heuer said of Diederich and Bruna. “They are definitely a couple of kids you can look to and look up to as teammates and see that they are willing to do the little things.”

Hodgeman County returns to the state game for the first time since 2013 when Osborne defeated the Longhorns, 56-8. The Salmans brothers served as team managers.

“We dominated the line of scrimmage all season long, and that game we just didn’t, and so we just didn’t have anything,” Housman said. “That was it. We didn’t dominate the line of scrimmage, and that was a very special team that Osborne had. But obviously every game, you’ve got to dominate the line of scrimmage. That’s just the No. 1 thing on my mind right now is how can we win up front.”

In the last three years, Jacob helped the Longhorns to 7-2, 8-2 and 5-4 records. This season, Hodgeman County opened as the west favorite. The Longhorns fell to rival Spearville in Week 2, and then lost by 32 at Otis-Bison in Week 9 for the district title. Jacob and Eli were both banged up, and Otis-Bison controlled the game on the line.

However, the Longhorns have gotten hot in the playoffs, including a 42-16 home victory versus Otis-Bison last week. The Longhorns led 36-0 in the third quarter. Hodgeman County has total margin of 558-213 and averages 7.8 yards per play.

“They are playing extremely good football right now,” Heuer said. “It’s like I told the kids (Monday) morning, I said, ‘They are a team that a lot of people have been sleeping on, but at the same time, for the last three years, they’ve always been mentioned as a team to kind of watch out for out there in the west.’”

Last Friday, for the first time all year, Hodgeman County committed to a four-man front defensively. The offensive line showed marked improvement from Week 9.

“That was the difference,” Otis-Bison coach Travis Starr said. “They owned us up front.”

Jacob Salmans said the line has improved on “just finishing off their blocks.” Juniors Dellon Shelton and Ethan Eckhoff are key on both sides.

“We just had to fire out low, keep chopping your feet, keep moving, couldn’t let them stand you up,” Eckhoff said. “If they stood you up, they had you. That’s what I noticed big time from Week 9, too. I got stood up a couple of times, and that’s when they had me the most.”

Eli Salmans has 196 carries for 1,379 yards and 23 rushing scores. He was bothered by both ankles in Week 9. In the playoffs, he has a collective 55 carries for 440 yards and seven scores. He stands second with 105 tackles, while Isaac is third at 91.

“Lots of ice,” he said. “You can’t let up on injuries like that. You’ve just got to keep on them, tape every practice, you’ve just got to keep it on. You’ve just got to bounce back.”

Hodgeman County lost 2016 leading tackler Luke Shiew to a career-ending neck injury after Week 1. Senior linebacker Treyton Coats has stepped in with 128 stops after 79 in his first three seasons. Senior Trevor Morgan, whom Housman (70-24 in his career) calls the best athlete he’s ever coached, leads with 34 catches for 561 yards and six scores.

“He’s tough to catch,” Housman said. “He is not your typical middle linebacker. He is 160 pounds, but he is as tough as nails.”

Jacob Salmans, one of the state’s most experienced quarterbacks regardless of class, has completed 62 of 107 passes for 980 yards with an 8/4 TD/INT ratio. He has 107 rushes for 614 yards and 14 scores.

Long known for his efficiency, Salmans has completed 62 percent of his career passes for 5,022 yards with 64 scores against just 17 interceptions. He has rushed for 31 touchdowns.

After Friday’s victory, Salmans first sprinted to the sideline and embraced his father. Then, he ran to the start of the line as Hodgeman County engaged in the postgame handshake with Otis-Bison.

“I always wanted to get back to there, and we are finally back my senior year, and I am just like, ‘Let’s just go get it. We don’t have anything to lose,” Jacob said. “Let’s go.”

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