SULLY — Celebrate the first undefeated regular season since 1999 then get back to work was the plan for Lynnville-Sully’s Hawks. With a 40-0 victory at Montezuma last Friday, the Hawk football team notched another goal — going undefeated in the regular season.
“It’s a dream come true. We’re not done yet, but it’s always been a dream of mine to go undefeated,” senior Jesse Van Wyk said. “We’re still working on the season.”
With that perfect regular season run came a Class A District 6 championship and a playoff berth. Eighth-ranked Lynnville-Sully faces a familiar foe in the first round of the Class A playoffs on Friday. The New London Tigers come to Sully for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.
Lynnville-Sully got past New London 20-14 in a District 6 contest at New London on Oct. 6. It took a late scoop-and-score fumble return by senior linebacker Sage Zylstra to give the Hawks the win on that night.
“It really wasn’t a surprise to get New London as our first-round opponent,” Lynnville-Sully head coach Mike Parkinson said. “We knew they were going to qualify as they were a very talented team and their point total was better than the other two-loss teams, so we were planning on a potential first round game with New London.”
The Hawks are led by a group of 10 seniors — eight have been on the team four years. Going into Friday’s game, those eight seniors have helped the Hawk football program go 28-11 and qualify for the Class A playoffs the past three years.
Seniors on the Hawk squad are quarterback Elijah Collins, tight end Drake Ehresman, defensive back Carson Dunsbergen, running back and linebacker Sage Zylstra, offensive and defensive linemen Jesse Van Wyk, Kemper Lukehart and Aaron Van De Krol, receiver and defensive back Brevin Hansen, receiver Tanner Foster and Cayden Johnson. Johnson is back after an injury had sidelined him since the second game of the season.
“Since an undefeated season hasn’t happened since 1999, it’s a cool thing to see our hard work in the weight room, practices and in games pay off,” Dunsbergen said. “New London is really quick and we know the players we need to key on.”
This is the first home playoff game for Lynnville-Sully since 2012. Parkinson said the Hawks fell short of making it to the UNI Dome in their third game at home that season.
“It means a lot to us to have a first round game here,” Parkinson said. “Now, we are two away from that chance again and this time we look to take care of business and turn game one into win one.”
It will be a tough contest, but we will be poised and ready and being at home is a great way for us to start. The fans will be in full support of the Hawks, brave the cold, and cheer us to a big night.”
Collins directs the Lynnville-Sully offense. As quarterback he has completed 46-of-100 passes for 771 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has thrown eight interceptions. He also has rushed for 23 yards.
“We put in a lot of hard work in the offseason which has helped us be successful this season,” Collins said. “We’ve found some of New London’s weaknesses on defense and we’re just going to make it happen. Going undefeated has been one of our goals all season and we made it happen in the regular season, but now we’re going after playoff wins.”
Van Wyk said as an offensive lineman, it has helped having a lot of skills offensive players to make the line’s job easier. He said if a lineman missed a block some time, the quarterback and running backs were good enough to still have a positive play.
Lynnville-Sully has a loaded back field. Zylstra and junior Evan Squires are the starting running backs, but the Hawks rotate in several others including juniors Nate Stock and Gage Vander Leest. Zylstra leads the Hawks with 441 yards on 63 carries with six touchdowns. Squires had 343 yards on 62 carries.
Stock has gained 414 yards on 41 carries and scored five TDs. Vander Leest has 368 yards on 36 carries with five TDs.
“At the start of the season, we expected to go undefeated and we worked for it. We knew Montezuma had beaten us last year to prevent us from going undefeated in the regular season,” Zylstra said. “So, we went into last week’s game and took it to them. Getting ready for New London this week has been just like all our other week’s of practice — the same schedule.”
Two other senior in the trenches for the Hawks have been Lukehart and Van De Krol. They both play on the line for Lynnville offensively and defensively. Van De Krol said going undefeated meant a lot to him and to the team as a whole after a lot of hard work.
“What separates us from other offensive lines is we play from whistle to whistle. We never give up on a block so we give the quarterback and running backs time to do their jobs,” Van De Krol said.
Van De Krol said the Hawks came together as a team and go the job done in the regular season. He said they are preparing for a strong run in the playoffs.
“It’s crazy and it’s awesome,” Lukehart, who is the top tackler on the defense, said. “We know we have more work to do and we’ve been doing that this week. I just have a drive to get that tackle on defense. New London’s offensive line blocks a little different than I was used to, but now I know it so I can get after it on defense.”
Lukehart has 37 solo tackles and 20 assisted tackles along with three quarterback sacks to lead the Hawk defense. Vander Leest, a defensive back, had 34 solo stops and 21 assisted stops. Zylstra had 31 solo tackles, 21 assisted tackles, three quarterback sacks and six fumble recoveries.
New London’s offense revolves around junior quarterback Isaac McSorely and junior running back Keontae Luckett. McSorley is 45-of-85 passing for 683 yards with 10 TD passes. McSorley’s favorite target is junior Mason Porter, who has 20 catches for 357 yards and five touchdowns.
Luckett is the Tiger’s ground game — 789 yards on 103 carries and 11 TDs. McSorley has rushed for 390 yards.
“We can’t give up big plays this time. They had two big plays against this first time we played,” Hansen said. “It felt good to go undefeated to see all our hard work pay off.
Ehresman said reaching the goal of an undefeated regular season was special for the team, but now the Hawks worked toward another goal in the playoffs.
“As a team we’ve bonded well,” Ehresman said.
Foster is a first-year senior player. He said it has been fun been on the team and working with his teammates. Johnson had to stand on the sideline most of the season with a shoulder injury.
“It as great to watch them do it (go undefeated), cheering them on,” Johnson said. I’m back to practice but probably won’t play Friday. I really want to get back out there.”
For Johnson to return to action, Lynnville-Sully will have to win at home Friday night to advance in the playoffs.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org