The Lynnville-Sully Hawks celebrate a fumble recovery in their Class A quarterfinals victory in Sully on Friday night, Nov. 4. The Hawks shut out AHSTW, 20-0, to advance to the Dome – a feat that hasn’t happened since 1986. Rain fell all day and night, making game-time conditions less than ideal, but Hawk players, coaches, and fans were undeterred and came ready to play despite the weather. Hawks shown above are CJ Nikkel (24), Mathias Torres (50), Dawson James (56), Conner Maston (7), Jager Huyser (51), and Bryce Richards (19).
Hawks’ Dome appearance is the first since 1986
Coach Mike Parkinson predicted Friday’s quarterfinals game between his fifth-ranked Lynnville-Sully Hawks and the fourth-ranked AHSTW Vikings on Friday, Nov. 4, would come down to special teams and controlling the line of scrim-mage, and he was right. The Hawks scored on a punt return, had incredible performances from their punt team, and absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
On a night when driving rain factored heavily into the game plans of both teams, Lynnville-Sully shut out the Vikings, 20-0, to advance to the Dome, a feat that hasn’t been done since 1986. Now, over 30 years since that ‘86 appearance, the 2022 L-S team is adding another link to its legacy and is one step closer to its ultimate goal – a championship title.
Friday night’s weather was anything but ideal – rain that fell all day didn’t let up in any of the four quarters, and temperatures hovered in the low 40s. But if you ask the Hawks, the conditions were perfect for the gritty style of play they’ve demonstrated all season. The Hawks had practiced with wet balls in anticipation of the poor weather, and coaches had towels, hair dryers, and a covered station on the sideline to keep footballs as dry as possible.
L-S players and coaches were undeterred at kickoff and through-out the game by the lousy conditions that made every aspect of play more difficult. They were bolstered by a drive to win, a goal to achieve, and a large crowd of fans whose school pride rang loud, proud, and soaking wet.
Junior CJ Nikkel picked up the low opening kick and ran the ball to the Hawks’ 38-yard line. An AHSTW penalty gave the Hawks five extra yards right away. Wet conditions came immediately into play, and the Hawks started off a bit shaky by recovering their own fumble. The Hawks made short gains on the slippery field, but were unable to gain the first down and signaled the punt team early.
Senior Conner Maston’s booming punt pinned the Vikings at their own 12-yard line. Slippery conditions wreaked havoc on AHSTW from the start as well. The Vikings were moving down the field before Maston at the safety position put a big hit on the ball carrier, which forced a fumble, recovered by senior Bryce Richards.
The Hawks fumbled twice in the next offensive series, but were able to maintain possession. On fourth and eight, the Hawks went for it, but the pass was short and incomplete, and L-S turned the ball over on downs at the Hawks’ own 26-yard line.
AHSTW strung together back-to-back runs for the game’s first first down. Their excitement was shortlived when the Hawks’ defensive line broke into the backfield for a sack. On fourth and 18, the Vikings punted the ball to junior Corder Noun Harder, who was deep for the Hawks. Noun Harder made the catch, secured the slippery ball, and was off to the races. His 59-yard punt return to the endzone put the first points on the board with 2:48 left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion by senior Kyle Squires was good, and the Hawks were up, 8-0.
The two teams continued to battle it out in the second quarter. Offensive yards were hard to come by, given the conditions, and the punt teams for both the Hawks and Vikings stayed busy. Maston booted two more punts in the defensive stalemate and pinned the Vikings at their 21-yard line and later deeper at their seven-yard line.
With under two minutes to play in the half, the Hawks struck gold. L-S defense started the series by partially blocking a punt and giving the Hawks good field position. Noun Harder slipped and lost ground trying to cut, but L-S made up for it on second and 15 when Squires got loose for a gain of nine. Noun Harder carried the ball up the middle to move the chains and then ran it on the next play to the two-yard line. Squires punched it in for the touchdown and the 14-0 lead.
Desperate to score before the break, the Vikings finally crossed midfield for the first time all game with seconds left in the half. AHSTW called timeout to dial up a play, but the L-S defense wasn’t fooled and stopped the Vikings in the backfield. The Hawks had the momentum and 14-0 lead at half.
The Hawks were riding an adrenaline high knowing they owned the line of scrimmage, and they won the possession battle in the first half. The Hawks stormed the field for the second half with an intensified goal to finish strong. They immediately caused havoc with their defense. The Vikings coughed up the ball in the first offensive series of the second half, and Nikkel jumped on the fumble to regain possession for the Hawks.
Consecutive runs by Noun Harder and a nine-yard gain by Squires put the Hawks at the one-yard line. The Hawks were knocking on the endzone’s door before penalties put L-S in a fourth-and-goal situation at the 22-yard line.
L-S went for it, but fell short and turned the ball over on downs.
That switch of momentum propelled the Vikings to move the chains and cross midfield for the second time all night. The Hawks quickly halted the progress and got the ball back right as time expired in the third quarter. L-S, now one quarter away from its Dome dream, added one more touchdown to seal the win. A series of short gains put the Hawks at first and goal from the one-yard line. AHSTW’s defense held its ground on two attempts before Noun Harder found the corner of the endzone to go up, 20-0, with 7:20 left in the game.
The Hawks owned the entire fourth quarter. Senior Jager Huyser recovered the Vikings’ third fumble of the night, and Maston booted another punt inside the 15-yard line as the Hawks maintained control of game. With just over a minute left in the game, the Hawks went into victory formation to secure the 20-0 shutout and a trip to the Dome.
Friday’s relentless rain eliminated the passing game for both teams, and only 27 rushing yards on the ground separated the Hawks and Vikings. With offensive gains nearly even, it was special teams and dominating lines that made a big impact. Noun Harder used his speed and blockers to put the first points on the board with a 59-yard punt return. Conner Maston booted four punts for a total of 151 yards that pinned the Vikings’ deep in their own territory. He received the long snaps from sophomore Carson Maston, who remained solid and accurate despite the slippery conditions. The Hawks owned and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Hawks recovered three AHSTW fumbles and had 15 tackles for loss. Despite bobbling the ball multiple times themselves, the Hawks didn’t fumble, and won the turnover battle.
Noun Harder wrote his name again in L-S history. The junior led the Hawks in rushing with 92 yards on 22 carries, which set the school’s single-season rushing record. His two touchdowns broke the single-season touchdown record. Noun Harder now owns the L-S records of single-game, single-season, and career rushing yards.
Squires rushed for 43 yards on nine carries and scored once. Defensively, the senior linebacker had six tackles, two of those being for a loss. Senior Lane Fisk continued his defensive dominance and led in tackles with 10.5. Huyser was a menace in the backfield with three of his four tackles being for a loss. Nikkel and Conner Maston each collected three tackles. Freshman Dawson James was credited with 2.5 hits, one for a loss. Both of Richards’ tackles were for a loss.
Friday’s win sends the Hawks to the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls for the semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 10, where they will face top-seeded West Hancock (11-0) at 10 a.m. This is the first time since 1986 L-S has made it to the Dome and ironically, the Hawks are facing the same opponent as the 1986 team.
The 2022 Hawks are in elite company with the 1986 L-S team. Not only did both teams advance to the Dome, but they are the only two teams in L-S history to register 11 wins in a single season. This year’s squad has also tallied the second-best two-year stretch in L-S history, sitting at 19-2. The last team to achieve such a two-year tally? The 1986 team with a 21-1 record.
Visit www.lshawks.com for semifinals info, including tickets