Newton High head football coach Ed Ergenbright considers Southeast Polk as one of the top four Class 4A teams in the state as state championship caliber. Ergenbright said he knows his Newton High Cardinals have a challenge before them on Friday in Pleasant Hill.
“A team like us isn’t suppose to beat those teams, but I guarantee we’re going to go give it a shot,” Ergenbright said following Newton’s 71-70 win over Fort Dodge last Friday at home. “Southeast Polk is a very good team. They are big up front on both sides of the football. They have a DI running back, a very good quarterback and a good group of skill players.
“Defensively, they are physical and active. Last year the really manhandled us. With all that said, our guys are not shying away from taking on this challenge.”
Newton, is one of three undefeated teams in Class 4A, broke into The Associated Press Iowa high school football rankings this week at No. 10. The 10th-ranked Cardinals (6-0) play No. 11 Southeast Polk (3-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Rams’ stadium in Pleasant Hill.
SEP is coming off a tough double overtime loss, 41-34, to third-ranked West Des Moines Valley (5-1) on Friday. Newton and Valley are 2-0 in Class 4A District 4 play and Southeast Polk is 1-1.
Ergenbright said he has seen no “hangover” effect from the wild 71-70 district win his team pulled out against Fort Dodge during this week’s practices. He said the Cardinal players are focused on their next task at hand.
“We have a lot to be excited about from that game, but we also have a lot — mainly defensively — to put behind us and move forward,” Ergenbright said. “To have a chance against Southeast Polk, we will try to do what we do best offensively, which is run the ball, and we have to play better defensively.”
Ergenbright said a lot of frustration on the part of coaches and players concerning the Cardinal defense comes from mistakes in alignments and techniques. He said the Newton coaches asked themselves how they could make it better for the players on the field.
“We’ve looked at things and simplified things a bit for this week. If you don’t line up right and use the techniques you’ve been taught, good teams are going to make you pay,” Ergenbright said.
The Rams are a good team led by senior quarterback Shane Starcevich (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) and sophomore running back Gavin Williams (6-foot, 195 pounds). SEP had the second-best passing offense in the district and third in rushing.
Starcevich is 95-of-164 passing for 1,317 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has rushed for seven TDs, going 473 yards on 76 carries. Williams has piled up 380 yards on 94 carries with eight TDs on the ground, and has caught 14 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown.
Starcevich also finds senior Nathaniel Flynn and junior Dylan Travis in the passing game. Flynn has 29 catches for 454 yards and Travis has 16 receptions for 183 yards and two TDs.
“If you stop their run game, their quarterback can run and is an accurate passer. They present defenses with a lot to take in and stop,” Ergenbright said. “We are addressing our shortcomings on defense and working to improve. We need to create turnovers.”
Newton leads 4A District 4 with six interceptions — two run back for touchdowns. The Cardinals have five fumble recoveries this season. They did not have a takeaway against Fort Dodge a week ago.
Senior safety Zach Combs has racked up 30 unassisted tackles and 10 assisted tackles for the Cardinals’ defense. Senior linebackers Grant Garvis and Blayden Rhone have 25 solos and 15 assists and 22 solos and 10 assisted tackles, respectively.
Five other Cardinal defenders have more than 10 total tackles apiece. The Cardinals have 10 quarterback sacks.
The Ram defense has nine players with double-digit totals in tackles. They are led by seniors Luke Boord with 29 solo tackles and 20 assisted tackles, Mason Morgan with 23 solo stops and 19 assisted tackles and Al Durr with 23 solo tackles and 14 assisted tackles.
Newton is not only the top-ranked rushing team in Class 4A, but stands atop all classes for the season. The Cardinals have rolled up 2,595 yards on 313 carries. Colo-NESCO, an 8-man team, has 2,443 yards on 233 carries.
“We have to find ways to move the ball against Southeast Polk’s tough defense. They know our veer is what we start with and last year they made adjustments against us to stop it,” Ergenbright said. “We have added more to the offense this season to run at these teams.”
Newton’s offense is powered by the ground game led by senior quarterback Garrett Sturtz with 662 yards on 80 carries and senior inning back Jaron Roush with 656 yards on 51 carries. Both players have nine TDs.
Junior Josh Miller has carried the ball 41 times for 442 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Josh Miravalles had 72 carries for 441 yards and leads the team with 10 touchdowns.
Sturtz has thrown for 326 yards, going 19-of-37, with six TD passes. Senior split end Trevor Ergenbright has nine catches for 181 yards and two TDs.
“Like I said Friday night, our players are going to give it a shot. We’re the underdog team in this game despite the records, we know that,” Ergenbright said. “These players said before the season they wanted to do something special — something great — to reach that goal, we have to win a game against a quality team like Southeast Polk. We’ll show up Friday and see how it goes.”
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org