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Alta, Newell-Fonda face-off Friday title in district showdown

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Alta High football coach Kevin Hammer knows what to expect when Newell-Fonda comes to town Friday night in a Class A, District 3 showdown.

"It probably will be a low scoring game between two physical football teams who like to run the ball," Hammer said. "We're similar types of teams in what we like to do offensively and defensively."

Both squads know there's plenty at stake when they meet. The Cyclones and Mustangs are both 4-0 in district play. Every other team has at least one loss, with Odebolt-Arthur at 3-1 and Laurens-Marathon, RC-L and CC-E with two losses each.

Newell-Fonda is undefeated at 6-0 and ranked seventh in the Associated Press' prep football poll. The Cyclones are 5-1, with their only loss coming to Class 2A West Hancock-Britt.

Whichever team wins will have a leg up on a district championship as well as a state playoff berth. The top two teams in Class A, District 3 move onto the Class A state playoffs.

"It's a big game and our kids know that," coach Hammer said. "Obviously, the team that wins will have a better shot on a district title.

Newell-Fonda coach Brian Wilken is taking the approach he always does - play physical, disciplined football and run and tackle hard. As for the importance of the game, Wilken said he'll treat it just like any other.

"With our district being so tough, we just take it one game at a time," he said. "A district game is a district game no matter what; our approach is going to be the same every week."

So far, that's worked for Newell-Fonda, which averages 230 yards rushing per game and 82 yards passing.

"They have a lot of weapons they can hurt you with," Alta coach Kevin Hammer said. "They run the ball very well; they don't pass that much, but when they do, it's efficient.

The Mustangs' top two rushers have gained big yards this season behind an athletic offensive line which is quick with better than average size.

N-F speedster David Hopper leads the team in rushing with 565 yards, an average of 94 yards per game. Spencer Baak has rushed for 459 yards an average of 35 yards per game. Both have rushed for ten touchdowns.

Mustang quarterback Evan Franzmeier has completed 27 of 43 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.

"Our biggest concern is stopping the run," Hammer said. "To do that, we'll have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and that won't be easy against their lines."

Newell-Fonda's Wilken has similar concerns about Alta's ability to score. The Cyclone offense has averaged 225 rushing yards per game, but has passed just 17 times this season.

"Alta also has great size up front," Wilken said. "They are quick as well and will be the best lines we've faced this season.

"They also have some kids who can make big plays from anywhere on the field," the N-F coach said. "One thing we still lack at times is good tackling. They have some kids in the backfield that can make you miss."

Leading the Cyclones' running game is the speedy, elusive Chris Schmitz. He averages 4.67 yards per run and 90 yards per game.

Running mate Cody Nesbitt has rushed 66 times for 352 yards, an average of 70 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry.

Quarterback Tyler Boyd runs well and has the ability to scramble out of the pocket for a run or pass. He's run for 49 yards and passed for 117 yards, an average of 25 yards per game.

In the last few games, Alta has had strong running and good blocking from sophomore fullback Jake Syndergaard.

"We're going to play to play disciplined defense," Wilken said. He said his team has four keys to winning.

"First, we have to run the ball well, and second we have to find a way to stop their run.

"Third, we have to protect the ball and avoid turnovers. Fourth, against their tough defense, we have to find a way.

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