ROCK VALLEY, Iowa -- With the exception of the first series of the game and a late long pass, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley silenced Spirit Lake’s offense to the tune of a 35-7 victory in the opening round of the Iowa Class 2A high school football playoffs here Friday night.
The second-ranked Nighthawks got a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs from Elliot Van Kekerix, who also scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback J.T. Van't Hul. Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (9-1) also received an outstanding defense effort while advancing to the quarterfinal round.
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, now 9-1 overall, had to overcome a rash of illnesses that spread through the team this week, most notably to standout quarterback J.T. Van’t Hul.
Van’t Hul was still battling the flu on Friday but managed to pass for two touchdowns and run for another. BHRV limited Spirit Lake to 179 yards of total offense, but 70 of those came on a meaningless touchdown pass late in the contest.
“Coach (Heath) Swanson and our defensive staff, when they get together they have a gift for breaking down other teams,” BHRV Coach Cory Brandt said. “Coach Swanson does an incredible amount of work putting in every one of our defensive schemes. It was a phenomenal effort by our kids but the preparation that got them in the right spot first was huge.”
No. 7 Spirit Lake had a prolific offensive team this season and went to work on the first series of the game. The Indians marched from their own 21 to the BHRV 14, but Ben Steffens was wide right on a 31-yard field goal attempt.
After that, Spirit Lake was unable to generate any offense at all until the long bomb from Connor Jensen to Spencer Newman with just over a minute left in the game.
In the meantime, the Nighthawks did just enough offensively to forge an early lead and never look back.
It took them just six plays after the missed field goal to get on the scoreboard for the first time. Van Kekerix took a short pass in the flat and did the rest of the work himself, completing a 56-yard touchdown play.
“Our coaches say you make one guy miss and you go 15 yards,” Van Kekerix said. “So you make one miss and that’s all you have to do.”
Seth Noteboom recovered a fumble deep in Spirit Lake territory, setting up the second Nighthawk touchdown, a 5-yard run by Van’t Hul.
The lead grew to 21-0 when Van’t Hul flipped a 7-yard scoring pass to Spencer Te Slaa early in the second quarter. BHRV marched 71 yards in six plays to begin the second half and a Van Kekerix interception set up the touchdown that set a continuous clock in motion at 35-0.
“Coach Swanson puts together a great plan and our job is just to go out and execute,” Van Kekerix said. “We knew coming in they had a good offense. On the interception, he cut inside me and I saw the quarterback turn and throw it to him so I just caught it.”
Van’t Hul completed 13 of 18 passes for 241 yards. Van Kekerix had three catches for 65 yards and Beau De Jongh three for 64, including a couple of leaping grabs in key spots.
“J.T. toughed it out tonight, he was sick all week,” Brandt said. “I saw him sitting against the goalpost at halftime and he was touch and go to go the second half but he did what he could. He’s a tough kid to say the least.”
Brandt was impressed by Spirit Lake’s opening drive.
“It takes a little bit sometimes for our kids to settle in and know what they’re doing because every team that comes in usually has a few tweaks,” Brandt said. “They toughened up when they had to and made plays the rest of the night.”
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley will host a quarterfinal game next Friday at Hull.