Two lopsided Tiger victories — the latest, last Friday, a 52-20 drubbing of the Jeffs at Fairbury in which the varsity offense didn’t take a single snap in the second half — sets up one of the, if not the, biggest game of the 2014 season for the Falls City High football team.
The unbeaten Tigers take the home field for the first time this season when they host 2-0 Ashland-Green at Jug Brown Field.
The Bluejays are coming off an impressive 28-13 win over Syracuse, though “impressive” has taken on a different meaning for these folks after what transpired a year ago. In 2013, A-G opened with a pedestrian 23-14 home win over the Tigers — in a game Falls City could’ve perhaps should’ve won — and played four regular season games decided by fewer than 10 points. It was a nice 7-1 season that turned into something much bigger when A-G beat Wilber-Clatonia 28-23 in the second round of the state playoffs. But it hardly stopped there, nor after the 33-13 beatdown of Lincoln Christian the next week. Then, after a 33-28 win over Columbus Lakeview, the Bluejays found themselves doing the tunnel walk in Memorial Stadium. The “Rocky” story didn’t have a perfect ending – they lost decisively to state champ Cozad – and they aren’t underdogs anymore, either.
The Bluejays had high hopes in 2013 – now they’re expectations.
“They’re a handful,” FCHS Head Coach Darin Fritz said. “It’ll be the best line we’ve seen, they have very good skill players, yeah, it’s a tough, tough matchup.
“And they want to send a message that last year was no fluke.”
Message delivered thus far. The team opened ‘14 with a 46-10 win at Wahoo. It was the first career start under center for senior QB Bryce Chudomelka, a converted receiver who threw for 137 yards and three scores in the game.
Sound familiar? It should. An absolute carbon-copy situation is playing out here at home, where receiver-turned-QB (sorta) Jack Hartman has more than delivered at his new position. A week after accounting for four touchdowns at Lincoln Lutheran, Hartman at Fairbury rushed for 142 on 10 carries and completed 2-of-3 throws for 50 yards and another score. He accounted for three two-point converions. Four of his five pass completions ended in the end zone.
“High QB rating is up there,” Fritz said. “We’re extremely happy with what he’s done. He’s making very good decisions and running the ball efficiently.”
The same can be said, really, about the entire offense – not to mention the coach, who made a good decision to sit the starters in the second half against Fairbury.
Half of senior Jordy Stoller’s eight carries stopped in the end zone (TD runs of 18, 25, 55, 25 yds.) and he had 156 yards by intermission. FC led 52-12.
“I’d say we’re executing at a high level right now,” Fritz said.
The first half also saw a two-yard scoring run by Weston Witt, a one-yard plunge by Brenden Heckenlively and a 36-yard TD strike from Hartman to Heckenlively.
All news wasn’t good in the half, though, as senior guard/defensive end Derek McCann was taken to the hospital after suffering a scary neck injury. The senior who has a history of back problems only suffered a “stinger,” Fritz said and should be able to go 100 percent this week.
“Lane Lovenburg came in and played very well in his place,” Fritz said.
Fritz also praised the play of his linemen, particularly Jeremy Zimmerman.
“He’s stepped up and done an outstanding job. He’s leading the team in pancake blocks. Jeremy’s always had potential and now he’s realizing that potential,” Fritz said.
Now Falls City has an opportunity to make a statement and open eyes the same way Ashland did a year ago.
“If we play up to our ability and keep executing at a high level, we’ll be tough to beat. It’s time to see how good we are,” he said.