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Three area squads target quarterfinals

October 29, 2012
By JOSH MEYER - Messenger Sports Writer (sports@messengernews.net) , Messenger News

Reaching the elite eight is the goal for three Messenger-area football teams tonight.

Humboldt, Newell-Fonda and Laurens-Marathon will all hit the gridiron in second-round playoff action.

Making their first postseason appearance since winning a state title in 2006, the Wildcats will host No. 9 South Tama in a Class 3A matchup.

In 8-Man play, the top-ranked Mustangs host Harris-Lake Park, while the Chargers travel to No. 7 Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn.

SOUTH TAMA (8-2) at HUMBOLDT (7-3)

Since dropping their first three games of the year, the rejuvenated Wildcats have managed to reel off seven consecutive victories, including a 42-3 pummeling of Newton in their postseason opener last Wednesday. During its torrid stretch, District 3 champion Humboldt has outscored the opposition, 217-67.

Brady Ross, a 195-pound sophomore, has ignited the Wildcat ground charge, netting 1,361 yards and 18 touchdowns on 226 carries. Ross is third in 3A in attempts, tied for fifth in scores and seventh in total rushing yards.

Ross has also posted a team-high 97 tackles from his linebacker spot. As a team, the Wildcats have forced 27 turnovers.

Humboldt quarterback Ben Jacobson, a senior, has gone 73-for-144 through the air for 1,189 yards, with 13 endzone strikes and two interceptions. Seniors Tyler Zaugg (22 catches, 332 yards, 2 TD) and Garrett Nelson (21-257-3) have been the go-to receivers.

The Wildcats, who own a 6-9 record in 11 all-time playoff appearances, are 4-1 at home this year. Humboldt's lone loss at Mason Maach Field came in a Week 2 forfeit against South Central Calhoun.

District 4 runner-up South Tama is fresh off a 31-14 triumph over Waverly-Shell Rock. The Trojans suffered their only setbacks to Newton (28-27) and second-ranked Grinnell (26-17).

Senior Kyle Stepheson of South Tama is first among all 3A players in rushing touchdowns (25) and carries (251) and third in total yards (1,714) on the ground.

Trojan signal-caller Sam Kuhter has thrown for 814 yards, with four scores and one pick. Vinny Laseley has pulled down a team-high eight grabs for 228 yards.

South Tama, which averages 34.6 points and 356.9 yards a night, is tied for first in 3A and fifth in the state in interceptions (17). The Trojans, who are 9-7 in seven postseason trips, are also tied with Humboldt for third in 3A in fumble recoveries (15).

HARRIS-LAKE PARK (8-2) at NEWELL-FONDA (10-0)

After looking nearly invincible for most of the regular season, the unbeaten Mustangs never skipped a beat in their playoff opener, whipping River Valley by a 45-12 final.

Newell-Fonda, which boasts the third best offense in 8-Man, generates a whopping 57.7 points and 425.5 yards per game.

Jonathan Johnson, a 160-pound senior, has been the driving force in the smashmouth N-F ground assault, producing 1,273 yards and 22 scores on 102 totes.

Senior Zak Seivers (80 carries, 737 yards, 12 TD) and junior Brady Bohe (57-524-8) have also been reliable backfield performers for the District 2 champion Mustangs, who are making their seventh playoff appearance in the past eight years and 10th in program history.

Seivers has went 43 of 72 passing as well for 898 yards, with 15 scores and no picks. Dalton Anderson, a junior, has collected a team-high 19 receptions for 431 yards and eight touchdowns.

Defensively, Newell-Fonda surrenders just 11.2 points a night, has pitched a pair of shutouts and is tied for third in the state in picks (19). Rigo Johnson - Jonathan's twin brother - also ranks fourth in 8-Man in stops (146).

Winners of five straight games, the Wolves appear to be hitting their stride at the most opportune time. Harris Lake-Park narrowly escaped with a hard-fought 14-6 victory over North Iowa in its previous outing, avenging an earlier Week 2 loss.

Colin Brons of H-LP has completed 134 of 208 passes for 1,970 yards, 32 scores and four picks. Brons paces all 8-Man quarterbacks in yards and touchdowns. Eli Ihnen has accumulated 63 catches for 1,018 yards and 17 scores.

Kade Heikens is the top rusher for the Wolves, churning out 865 yards and finding paydirt on 19 occasions.

Harris-Lake Park, which is 1-2 all-time in three playoff trips, suffered its other setback in Week 5 to unbeaten and seventh-ranked Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn.

LAURENS-MARATHON (8-2) at MARCUS-MERIDEN-CLEGHORN (10-0)

On the heels of a 20-14 first-round triumph against Remsen-Union, the District 2 runner-up Chargers face the unenviable task of trying to contain the explosive Eagles.

Dual-threat senior signal-caller Matt Cleveland has combined for 1,914 yards of total offense and took part in 28 touchdowns for Laurens-Marathon. Twin brother Will has been Cleveland's prime target, hauling in 23 grabs for 414 yards and eight scores.

The Chargers, who are 8-6 all-time in eight postseason appearances, suffered their losses to Newell-Fonda (35-14) and West Bend-Mallard (22-21).

Collin Lind, a senior, anchors the L-M defensive unit with 96 tackles and three interceptions.

The District 1 champion Eagles are soaring high following their first playoff victory in school history - a 49-6 rout of West Bend-Mallard.

Andrew Hoefling has contributed 1,145 yards and 19 touchdowns on 139 carries for M-M-C, which ranks fourth in 8-Man in total offensive yards (4,132).

Senior Tanner Utesch has also thrown for 1,306 yards, including 26 scores and three picks. Jake Meehan has managed 27 catches for 423 yards and seven touchdowns.

Nathan Zubrod has turned in 93 stops for the stifling Eagle defense, which has forced 23 takeaways, earned two shutouts and held six opponents to 14 points or less.