IDA GROVE, Iowa – The schedule makers were not very kind to the OABCIG football team this season.
Of the Falcons’ five Class 2A District 9 game, four were on the road. They won their only home game over Shenandoah, but stumbled in the district opener at Red Oak, creating what has amounted to a must-win situation every week in order to make the playoffs.
The 24-19 setback at Red Oak is the only blemish on the season slate for OABCIG (6-1, 2-1), but the Falcons are a game behind district leader Carroll Kuemper and pay a visit to the Knights on Friday night. Kuemper is 4-3 overall, but all of its losses were in non-district play.
“You make the decisions a lot easier for the numbers if you can make this a win,” OABCIG Coach Larry Allen said. “We’re taking the attitude that you have to win both to insure getting in (the playoffs).”
Only district champions earn automatic playoff berths and the remaining seven spots are determined through a newly implemented RPI system that takes into consideration a number of different factors. Not only does OABCIG play district leader Kuemper this week, but ends the regular season at Greene County, which is also 6-1 overall and 2-1 in district play.
“You have to play who they put in front of you,” Allen said. “They (Kuemper) are so athletic and physical so that will be the big challenge for us to be able to match that.”
While Kuemper relies more on a power game, OABCIG has aired it out this season, showcasing senior quarterback Kaden Ladwig, the leading passer in Class 2A. Ladwig, in his third season as a starter, has thrown for 2,205 yards (tops in 2A and third overall in the state) and 21 touchdowns (first in 2A). He has completed 58.7 percent of his passes and thrown just six interceptions in 208 attempts.
“We’re quite a different team than we have been in the past,” Allen said. “It was predominantly run last year and this year it’s 99 percent through the air, it seems like. That’s just a credit to the kids we had coming back.
“Early on in the season we decided that fit our personnel a little bitter. Having Kaden back as a third-year starter with that leadership, the kids have bought in to what we are trying to do.”
Allen said Ladwig has come a long way since taking over early in his sophomore season because of an injury to the starting quarterback.
“He’s put a lot of time into it and is really starting to understand the game,” Allen said. “He’s done a good job of spreading it around and they’re very unselfish. They don’t seem to care who’s having success.”
Senior Quintin Cranston leads the team with 662 yards while sophomore Cooper Dejean has a team-high 40 receptions. Each has hauled in seven touchdown passes, which is tied for third best in Class 2A.
Three more players, including Jake Nieman with 24, have 10 or more receptions.
Kuemper relies heavily on the running of 190-pound senior Nate Wendl, who has carried 95 times for 632 yards and four touchdowns. The Knights have passed for only 829 yards and the defense has allowed just 29 points in three district games.
“We need to get them into second-and-long and third-and-long situations to where they have to put the ball in the air a little more,” Allen said. “If we’re giving up five or six yards on first down that really puts us in a bind. We’ve given up a lot of yards this year but we haven’t given up a lot of points and that’s been a key for us so hopefully we can do that again Friday night.
“They are spread all the time and try to use their athleticism. I think we match up with them on the skill positions, the issue is going to be whether we can hold our own up front when they try to run the ball at us.”