Nothing changes for Newton High’s Cardinals as they prepare for the 2017 season finale. They work on doing what they do best — running the football on offense.
The Cardinals are looking to ride their offensive and defensive play of a week ago against West Des Moines Valley into Friday’s Class 4A District 4 matchup with Indianola. The Cardinals and Indians each have a 2-2 district mark.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. in Indianola. A playoff berth is not on the line as each team has losses to district champion Valley and runner-up Southeast Polk.
“We’re going into the game with confidence. We want to send our seniors out the right way with a win,” Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “It’s always emotional when it’s the seniors’ final game, but this group has been really good about keeping things balanced emotional for the games.”
Newton (6-2) and Indianola (5-3) match up well according to Ergenbright. He said the Cardinals will prepare for what the Indians show them and will be ready to make any in-game adjustments.
The Cardinals go into their final game of the season as the top rushing team in the state — not just Class 4A but all levels. Newton is three yards away from a team total 3,000 yards on the ground this season. They have 2,997 yards on 420 carries.
“I knew if we were going to be successful we had to be able to run the ball. If you can’t run the ball, you can’t win no matter how much you throw it,” Ergenbright said. “This season we use three running backs and our quarterback to establish the run. Our guys have done a great job of doing their part.”
Ergenbright said running the ball is first priority for the Cardinals. They have been able to mix in some successful passing plays to help keep teams guessing.
Indianola has a balanced offensive attack. It goes to junior running back Dylan Hildreth on the ground. Hildreth had rushed for 1,108 yards on 187 carries this season. He has scored 17 touchdowns.
The Indian offense is directed by senior quarterback Joe Jensen. Jensen is 73-of-134 for 1,103 yards with nine TD passes and four interceptions.
Jensen’s favorite target is 6-foot-5 inch senior wide receiver Cole Scott. Scott has 20 catches for 297 yards and five touchdowns. Hildreth has 12 receptions for 231 yards.
“We’re going to work on limiting their good running back. We have to tackle and play the run like we did against Valley,” Ergenbright said. “Also the Scott kid presents some match-up problems, but we’ll work a plan to cover him.”
Indianola has two other receivers — juniors Kolby Kolarik and Evan Gauger — with double digits in catches.
Newton’s game plan for the Indians is what it has been for Southeast Polk and Valley — run the football for sustained drives and score. The Cardinals were successful against Valley last week in ball control coming up just short of an upset, losing 38-28.
“This is toss-up game. Last week, our guys did what we needed to do to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game late,” Ergenbright said. “Valley made a play and we didn’t at the end, but with three minutes left we were there.
“It’s about have the long drives to shorten the game. It keeps their offense off the field and keeps our defense fresh so we can stay in the game.”
Senior quarterback Garrett Sturtz is Newton’s leading rusher with 848 yards on 127 carries followed by senior running back Jaron Roush with 801 yards on 76 carries. Junior Josh Miller had 481 yards on 58 carries and senior Josh Miravalles has 473 yards on 90 carries.
Sturtz is 36-of-66 passing for 476 yards with seven TD passes and two interceptions. Senior split end Trevor Ergenbright has 14 receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Roush has 10 catches for 125 yards and three TDs while junior tight end Jacob Murphy has made five grabs for 79 yards and one TD.
Indianola is coming off a big come-from-behind win over Fort Dodge. It’s the final game at home for the Indians.
“We know they will be ready to play on their field. We have to match that intensity from the opening kickoff,” Ergenbright said.
Newton will have two seniors back after being sidelined most of the season with injuries. Running back Carson Cazett and linebacker Joe Busch have been practicing this week and will play Friday.
Cazett played in the first four games, gaining 179 yards on 26 carries and scored two touchdowns. Busch had been one of the top tacklers returning for the Cardinals season, but suffered a leg injury in the season opener after make four solo tackles.
“We’re happy to see these two back on the field for us this week,” Ergenbright said. “They both worked hard in the offseason to be ready for their senior season.”
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org