—by Roger Fritz
The Roland-Story football team put an end to a 10-game losing streak, stretching back to last season, when they defeated the South Hardin Tigers 20-12 Friday night in Eldora. The Norsemen raised their season record to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in Class 2A District 7. South Hardin fell to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in D7.
The Norsemen appeared early to be coasting towards a laugher, as they quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead with only four minutes gone in the game. The good fortune started quickly, as South Hardin fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Norse’s Sam Miller was there to fall on it at the Tiger 38. Six plays later, the Norsemen were in the end zone on a one yard quarterback sneak by Zach Hovick.
South Hardin properly fielded the next kickoff, but the Roland-Story defense forced a quick three and out. After the Tiger punt and the Norsemen return, the Norse found themselves again on the Tiger 38. This drive went three times faster than the last one, as the Norsemen took only two plays to go the 38 yards. Hovick hit Blake Morgan for a 20 yard pickup via the passing game, and Josiah Soderstrum had a big hole at the line, and then broke some tackles to run the final 18 yards into the end zone. Gunder Howe connected on both PATs.
So the blowout was on, right? Borrowing Lee Corso’s catchphrase, "Not so fast, my friend," South Hardin put the brakes on the remainder of the Norsemen scoring in the first half, and managed their own touchdown at the end of a seven play, 59 yard drive. That score was on the final play of the first quarter. The PAT was no good, and the score was narrowed to 14-6. That score held up through halftime.
The Norsemen received the ball to start the second half, but were unable to score after an eight play drive. South Hardin went on offense, but on the third play of their drive, Blake Morgan stepped in front of an errant Tiger pass and intercepted the ball. The Norsemen again took advantage of a short field.
And it only took one play. Fifty percent of Roland-Story’s state qualifying 4x800 meter track team hooked up for a 31 yard touchdown strike. Zach Hovick hit Trent Elliott in stride about 15 yards down field, and Elliott finished the distance to give the Norsemen the touchdown. The PAT was blocked, and the Norsemen led 20-6 with 6:51 to go in the third quarter.
On the next two offensive series, the Norsemen were able to put together two long, time-consuming drives, but were unable to convert them into points. Meanwhile the defense did some bending without breaking as the clock continued to roll.
But with the game winding down, South Hardin made the game a bit more interesting than Roland-Story fans wanted, by putting together a two minute, eight play, 71 yard drive capped by a touchdown with 3:37 to go in the game that cut the score to 20-12.
The Tigers attempted an onside kick, but the Norsemen’s Ryan Hadaway fell on the ball. The Norse took over on offense, but only ran 90 seconds off the clock and netted four yards. So the Norsemen were forced to punt, and the Tigers got the ball back on their own 25 with 1:59 to go in the game, trailing by a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
South Hardin was able to advance the ball 33 yards before Blake Morgan poked away a Tiger fourth down pass to seal the victory for the Norsemen.
A better offensive output than weeks past helped the Norsemen spoil the Tigers’ Homecoming. However the Tigers still managed to out gain the Norsemen 384 to 319. The Tigers ran 58 plays to the Norse’s 62. That is more plays than a typical game due to the fact that there were a lot more stoppages of play because of the number of incomplete passes thrown by South Hardin.
South Hardin went 19-41 in the air for 277 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Zach Hovick and Blake Morgan each had a pick for the Norsemen. Via the ground, the Tigers had 17 carries for 107 yards.
Offensively for the Norsemen, Zach Hovick went 7-17 passing, for 101 yards and one touchdown. Josiah Soderstrum caught four balls for 48 yards, Trent Elliott caught one for 31 and a touchdown, and Blake Morgan and Alex Urbanek each caught a ball for 20 and two yards, respectively.
On the ground, the Norse racked up 218 yards on 45 carries. Leading the way was Soderstrum for 103 yards on 20 rushes, with a touchdown. Hovick carried 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Morgan carried six times for 43 yards, Eli Samo carried three times for 13 yards, and Kane Hassebrock carried three times for seven yards.
Only 13 different Norsemen had tackles on the night, which is a bit lower than usual, but was kept down by the high number of incomplete passes. Cole Birchmier led the way on stops for Roland-Story, along with Morgan and Hovick.
It’s Homecoming Week for the Norsemen this week, and East Marshall will be coming to town for a District 7 match up. The Mustangs are 0-5 on the year and are coming off a 42-6 non-district loss to Center Point-Urbana. In other scores from D7, North Polk remained undefeated, knocking off Gilbert 27-20, and West Marshall remained undefeated as well, beating Nevada 35-0.
Because it is Homecoming, and to give a little more time for halftime festivities and the post-game dance, the game will start a half hour earlier than normal. The Mustangs and Norsemen will tee it up at 7 p.m.