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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

We meet again

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Newell-Fonda's Dillon Anderson stiff arms a defender as he streaks down the sideline for a 65 yard touchdown reception during the Mustangs 52-26 victory over GT/RA Monday night. / photo by Nate Shaughnessy [Order this photo]
Last year the Newell-Fonda Mustangs brought an 11-0 record into the quarterfinal round of the eight-man playoffs to face the 11-0 Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Eagles. After a roller coaster of a game, the Hawks prevailed by a score of 42-38, advancing to the UNI Dome where they beat their next two opponents by an average of 37 points on their way to being crowned the 2012 State Champs.

This year the Mustangs bring another 11-0 record into the quarterfinals to face a 10-1 M-M-C squad in Marcus with the opportunity to take care of some unfinished business. However, N-F head coach Brian Wilken doesn't want to focus on the past.

"[Coming into this game] I think there are a couple things. One: I think for all of us the bottom line is, all you want is an opportunity to play in this game, and that's each and every year. We haven't looked at it from that [unfinished business] standpoint," Wilken said. "Two: If you're going to advance to the semifinals, you have to win three football games. It goes along hand in hand with [our goal of] win our next football game that we've had each week. You have to win three. We've known this for a long time. It really doesn't matter who you're playing."

That isn't to say his team won't be carrying plenty of excitement into this game.

"Our energy should be high because of all the energy we have. We should be ready to go," Wilken said. "There's no reason not to, this is what you work all year to have."

N-F will carry that energy into Marcus following their 52-26 manhandling of a tough Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire team on Monday in which standout quarterback Gabe Podraza put up six touchdowns.

M-M-C on the other hand is coming off a gritty 28-18 victory over West Bend-Mallard Monday night. The Wolverines were the only team to take down the Hawks this season, also by a score of 28-18 in week two. In comparison, N-F beat WB-M 34-18 in the final week of the regular season.

The Eagles are led by quarterback Dylan Spieler who carries a lot of athleticism to the position after being relocated from the outside as a receiver to under center. The senior signal-caller has compiled 1,948 yards and 37 touchdowns this year with 669 of those yards and 16 scores coming on the ground.

"Their quarterback is a tremendous athlete, and a tremendous football player," Wilken said. "He can throw or pull it down and run. He can hurt you quickly."

Conner Holmes also returned this year for M-M-C in the backfield where he has covered 1,092 yards and reached pay dirt 14 times.

"They have some guys coming back from their State Championship team, but they've had a lot of younger kids step up through their coaches' leadership and upperclassmen leadership," Wilken said. "They've come together as a football team, and have played really well."

One of those newcomers is sophomore running back who has complemented Holmes with 1,015 rushing yards and six touchdowns. However, the Eagles biggest strength is just that. Size and strength.

"I think they have some size up front. They want to run the football, and I think the scary part about them running the football is their backs get so much yardage after contact," Wilken said. "Those yards add up pretty quickly. It's the difference between a first down and a third down. It's going to be important for us to tackle well. We can't give up yardage after contact. We can't miss tackles."

Another area of concern for the Mustangs will be the passing game. Despite nabbing three picks Monday night against GT/RA, N-F still gave up nearly 250 yards through the air, and the Eagles will enter Friday's game as the 10th most successful air attack in eight-man.

"I think we can help our our defensive backs if we get some pressure on the quarterback. We had a tough time the other night getting three man pressure," Wilken said. "As we head to Marcus, we're going to have to get three man pressure. Their quarterback is obviously good, and their receivers are talented. Hopefully we can hurry some throws and for him to make some mistakes."

Fans will likely be in store for a pretty impressive offensive showcase Friday night as both teams come into the game averaging over 48 points a game.

"It's two good football teams here in Northwest Iowa," Wilken said. "We're excited and happy for the opportunity."

The gateway to the Dome opens in Marcus Friday night at 7 p.m.

*Editor's note: This story originally referred to MMC as the Hawks. It has been changed to the Eagles.

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