STORM LAKE, Iowa | In order to repeat as Class 3A District 1 champions, the task is simple. The Tornadoes need to win their last two games, which by no means will be easy, starting with a home tilt Friday against longtime rival Spencer.
“All games are must wins at this point ever since we lost to Heelan because in our district you only get about one of them,” Storm Lake Coach Rudy Wieck said. “There’s a way we can get in (playoffs) if we lose but we don’t plan on doing that. Our plan is to win the district so we plan to win out.”
Storm Lake is 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the district, a game behind frontrunner Sergeant Bluff-Luton (5-0), which it travels to next Friday. But first thing first and the Tornadoes are concentrating on Spencer, 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the district and, more so than Storm Lake, is playing for its playoff life.
“Their offense presents a different set of challenges than you’re used to,” Wieck said. “There are plenty of teams that are tough to stop, they just tend to do things a little differently. They like to run that triple option and we have to stay disciplined and take care of our responsibilities and have 11 guys flying around.”
Storm Lake’s lone loss is to Sioux City Bishop Heelan (5-2, 3-2) while Spencer beat Heelan a couple of weeks ago but dropped a 17-14 contest to Humboldt (its only win of the season) and lost to Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
The Tornadoes seem to have picked up where they left off last season, when they put together the best record in program history, finishing 9-1 overall and winning all seven of their district games.
“These guys have really done a good job of staying focused and making sure that they didn’t rest on their laurels from last year, they wanted to carve their own path” Wieck said. “We haven’t accomplished what we set out to accomplish yet so we’ve got to keep playing at a high level if we want to get to where we want to go.”
Kevin Duque has accounted for 1,059 total yards in his first season as starting quarterback. Duque has completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 759 yards and rushed for 300.
Brayden Hoops and Duque have stood out on both sides of the ball. Middle linebacker Hoops leads the team with 57.5 tackles while Duque has charted 30. Fullback Hoops has carried 88 times for 471 yards (10 less than speedy Lamar Mulgae) and 16 touchdowns.
The Tornadoes returned their entire offensive line from last season and, according to Wieck, has been playing particularly well the last couple of weeks.
Spencer is faced with even more demanding odds in its quest for a playoff berth. The Tigers must win each of their last two games – Friday and at Algona next week -- to stay alive.
“Storm Lake is really well coached and their kids play hard and disciplined,” Spencer Coach Jim Tighe said. “They lost a pretty good quarterback last year (Michael Demers) but the kid they put in there (Duque) has done a really solid job, he’s very athletic. And their defense is fast and athletic and don’t give up a whole lot of yards.”
The Tigers’ triple option offense, triggered by senior quarterback Cade Hopkins, has produced three players with 450 yards or more. Hopkins leads the way with 576 yards (eight touchdowns) while Brendan Ellis has 472 yards and Cooper Fox 450. Isaiah Spencer (250 yards) scored a touchdown in overtime to beat Heelan a couple of weeks ago.
“We have to prove we can win on the road,” Tighe said. “We won our first game of the year at Emmetsburg and then lost at Humboldt the first district game and had a total disaster with seven turnovers at Sergeant Bluff.
“Our quarterback is a two-year starter and does a good job of running our option offense. We’re getting more confidence throwing the ball, which isn’t something we do much, and we’ve gotten some continuity in the line.
“I said at the beginning of the year we’re capable of beating anyone in our district and also capable of getting beat by anyone, we’ve proven that. We just have to go in and play our game and not turn the ball over. That’s the big thing.”