SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa | The fourth-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton football team is making its fourth straight playoff appearance and has turned itself into one of the best Siouxland programs under the direction of Justin Smith.
However, the fifth-year head coach knows past accomplishment won’t help the Warriors against a tough first-round playoff foe in No. 8 Glenwood here Friday.
“I would say they are a top-5 team in the state talent wise,” said Smith. “Their offensive and defensive lines are huge and they have Division I football players and wrestlers on those lines. They are going to be the best team we have played this year by far.”
Glenwood hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game this season with Caleb Sanders leading the way with 49 tackles, including 15 solo tackles for loss. The Rams’ lone loss in their 8-1 regular season was a 17-14 setback to district champion Harlan.
The Warriors posted a perfect 9-0 regular season that continues to build up the turnaround the program has enjoyed since it won just one game the season before Smith arrived.
“We have great kids here and intelligent young men that work really, really hard and buy into coaching,” Smith said. “It makes coaching really easy.
“I think their hunger for improvement (stands out). This group of seniors when they were freshman were 1-7 in freshman football, and they just had a hunger about them and kept grinding and fighting. We told them that they had some talent, and when we put some pieces with your group you are going to be fine.”
Smith has utilized a strong running attack while leading the Warriors that has keyed the success. Matt George was a back-to-back 2,000-yard rusher for the Warriors and helped them to the state semifinals in 2015. This season, SB-L has leaned on Britton Delperdang and he has responded with 1,371 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.
“He has had an outstanding year and having a full year of lifting under his belt and being able to train hard for an entire year has really made a difference,” Smith said. “He has just made some fantastic plays this year.”
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Wright stepped into the starting position early in the season and has responded with 1,321 yards passing 17 touchdowns and just one interception.
“He makes good decisions and we have some good route runners out there getting open,” Smith said. “The line is doing a good job protecting, and our passing game is not necessarily a high risk passing game. It is a lot of short underneath passes that you can make some big gains out of and he has done a nice job making those reads.”
Dylan Laughlin, the starting QB to open the season before suffering an injury, is healthy again and providing the Warriors with some options.
“We think we have a few things we can attack (on offense),” Smith said. “We would be insane to think we could just run right at them and over them like we have sometimes this year, but we have an awful good offensive line and we are still going to run the ball and execute.”
Glenwood brings its own impressive rushing attack into the game as full back Noah Carter leads the way with 941 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns while quarterback Andrew Blum has gained 919 yards and found the end zone 10 times. Blum has also thrown the ball for 734 yards.
“Both of them are over 200 pounds, both are big, physical kids and the quarterback throws a nice ball,” Smith said. “Offensive line I think they probably average about 250-260 pounds across the front.”
Smith called the linemen “explosive, strong athletes” that his defense will have to deal with while also having as many as three regulars missing on that side of the ball because of recent injuries.
SBL’s defense is led by Colby Klingensmith’s 42 tackles and Brody Eaton has six sacks.
The Warriors, like nearly every team in Siouxland, will be dealing with the first real cold night of the season, but they will be doing it home.
“You always feel like you play a little better at home and it is nice to not have that bus ride,” Smith said.