SERGEANT BLUFF | Fast and furious.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s offense and defense performed just like that while bolting to perhaps its best start of the season at a time which was especially important.
After all, it’s the first round of Class 3A state football playoffs. Quarterback Daniel Wright passed for a career-high 368 yards and five touchdowns, four that came in the first half as the fifth-ranked Warriors scored on four of their first five possessions en route to a 42-0 triumph over Bishop Heelan Friday night.
Basically, the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Wright threw the short pass and his receivers did the rest after the catch. Conner Groves had six catches for a whopping 209 yards, highlighted by his second scoring grab of the night, a 95-yarder down the right sideline with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
“They just made plays tonight,” said Wright, who enters the quarterfinals passing for 2,048 yards and 24 touchdowns. “(Heelan) chose to play press coverage on them which means they have a lot of opportunities to make plays. We just let them do what they do.
“It’s always fun throwing a short pass. You see them run a long ways. Free yards for the QB, right? It’s fun watching them run because those guys can fly. It’s fun to get the ball on them and let them make the play on their own.”
Sam DeMoss had two catches in the first quarter for touchdowns of 77 and 34 yards, his only grabs of the night. DeMoss, who has six touchdown catches on the season for Coach Justin Smith’s 9-1 squad, winners of nine straight, had the Warriors’ longest TD reception of the season, a 91-yarder in a 49-14 Class 3A District 1 win over Denison-Schleswig on Oct. 12 before Groves’ seventh scoring catch of the season in the third quarter that sent the game into continuous clock mode as it produced a 35-0 lead.
Groves made a beautiful extension on an 17-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Two more of Groves’ catches were good for over 30 yards.
“Coach said what was going to happen, they were going to load the box and they kept their linebackers in the box, so we knew we had to execute those pass plays and we did a great job,” said Groves. “I’m just thinking (on the 95-yard TD catch) I need to make a great play for my teammates. Our speed is great this year. We get to the edge and we’re a team that’s hard to catch.”
Smith said afterwards that speed has been evident all season. It wasn’t only that on offense, as Zach Shultz bolted 41 yards on an interception, taking advantage of the convoy of blockers in front of him to return the ball to the 4-yard line.
Groves was thrown for a nine-yard loss on a reverse on the first play of the drive, but two plays later, Wright fired an 8-yard TD pass to Deric Fitzgerald for a 28-0 lead.
“(Speed) helps a ton, no doubt about it,” said Smith, now 6-4 in playoff games during his five seasons as the Warriors’ coach. “I mean, Heelan has great dudes up front and we have the advantage in the speed department. We won the battle up front.
“My offensive line’s pass protection was outstanding tonight. Danny Wright had all night to throw and (Heelan) kept playing press man. Our guys just ran by them. Danny didn’t play well the first game (against Heelan) and he’ll be the first to tell you that because he was very conservative. He kept running and I told him, ‘Danny, dude, the stuff is there. Take the throws.’ Fourth quarter he did and we made plays.”
Heelan (7-3), which fell 23-9 to the Warriors during district play, was unable to convert a fourth-and-5 situation in the second quarter when quarterback Drew Olson fell a yard short, tackled at the SB-L 27.
Running back Tommy Schiltz rushed for 105 yards for Coach Roger Jansen’s Crusaders, which included 14- and 30-yard gains on the first series of the third quarter. His team trailing 28-0, Olson followed with a run to the 19, then threw two incomplete passes in the end zone to Dawson Fenton, both times covered by the Warriors’ Jorma Schwedler.
That’s where Schwedler’s teammate, Groves, entered with the 95-yarder on the first play of the ensuing drive.
“Speed kills and unless you have it, it’s tough to defend,” said Jansen. “Our guys battled. Things didn’t go very well the first half and I think the second half showed the character of this football team. We could have easily packed it up, but we battled, we fought.
“I think if we could have got it in that first drive, things could have been different, but we didn’t. Sergeant Bluff deserves the credit, but I can’t be more prouder of this football team from the first day that we started practice to this one. These guys have improved so much. I think they’re going to have a hard time of realizing it now, but a week or two, they’re going to feel good about this season.”