Every team in the state of Iowa strives to make a postseason appearance. However, only 16 teams are selected to compete for a state title at the end of the season. For the third year in a row, the Glenwood Rams (8-1, 6-1) earned a playoff bid after securing the runner-up spot in Class 3A District 7. Having won five straight games in blowout fashion, Glenwood’s momentum is at a season high as they prepare for a first-round showdown with fourth-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton (9-0, 7-0) Friday night.
The District 1 Champion Warriors come into this game as a seven-point favorite over the Rams (per BCMoore). Sergeant Bluff will bring a very versatile, balanced offense to the table in this matchup. The Warriors’ 6’4, 170lb sophomore quarterback Daniel Wright leads a dangerous air attack. Wright threw for 1,321 yards in the regular season, and boasts the best touchdown to interception ratio in Class 3A with 17 touchdowns to just one interception. Wright undoubtedly likes to spread the ball around, as he has three wideouts with 300+ yards on the season. Senior Ty Boekelman is the leading receiver with 24 receptions for 454 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by junior Conner Groves, who has hauled in 20 passes for 454 yards and seven touchdowns as well. Deric Fitzgerald and Sam DeMoss have also played a big role in the passing game this season, catching a combined 39 passes for 564 yards and four scores. Needless to say, the Ram defense will have their hands full in the secondary.
A solid running game allows the Warriors to keep it on the ground if need be. Senior running back Britton Delperdang ranks second in Class 3A in total rushing yards with 1,371, trailing only Nick Foss of Harlan. He has also added 15 touchdowns on the season and averages eight yards per carry, which ranks sixth among 3A backs (minimum 80 carries).
A running game is something that the Rams have handled extremely well on the defensive side this season. Glenwood only allowed an average of 34 rushing yards per game in the final five weeks of the season. Overall, the stifling Ram defense held opponents to just 12 points per game throughout the year, which ranks second in District 7 behind Harlan. Senior defensive lineman Caleb Sanders is definitely a force to be reckoned with up front. The South Dakota State commit recorded a team-high 49 tackles in the regular season, including a whopping 20.5 tackles for loss. The rest of Glenwood’s stellar front seven, made up of Isaac Bales, Dillon Wiser, Anthony Sherry, Parker Sell, Eli Bales and Brett Mower could prove to be a major issue for the Sergeant Bluff running game.
Not only does Glenwood have an advantage in the defensive trenches, but the offensive line has been dominant throughout the entire season. The Rams currently rank third in total rushing yards in Class 3A, and have two players close to the 1,000 yard mark in tailback Noah Carter and quarterback Andrew Blum. The triple option set that Glenwood normally runs could cause some problems for a Sergeant Bluff defense that allowed 29 points to Storm Lake’s triple option last week.
As for individual stats, Carter and Blum were the highlight players through the regular season. Even though he missed week one, Carter is still Glenwood’s leading rusher with 941 yards and 19 touchdowns (second in 3A). However, Blum isn’t far behind, as he has racked up 919 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Slot back Cooper Silvius only averages about seven carries per game, but has still tallied over 400 yards on the season. Glenwood’s other slot back Josh Ruth hadn’t really been talked about until last week when he busted just seven carries for 95 yards. While Carter and Blum usually get most of the workload, Head Coach Cory Faust never hesitates to mention his slots as major contributors to Glenwood’s success on the ground.
Keys to the Game
Part of football is playing in the elements of nature, and mother nature is not going to be so kind to teams across the state Friday night. With the high being in the low 40s, and kickoff temperature projected to be about 35 degrees, it could be an offensive struggle for both teams. Cold weather can make it very difficult to get the passing game going, giving Glenwood an advantage due to their run-first offense.
That said, for Sergeant Bluff, they will need to try to halt Glenwood’s offensive production in the first few quarters. If they allow the Rams to get their run game rolling early, it could be a long night for the Warriors (ask Winterset about that). On offense, Sergeant Bluff will likely look to the air, as Glenwood’s secondary has struggled with the deep ball as of late. Trying to beat the Rams up front is no easy task, so expect Sergeant Bluff to get their playmakers in space as opposed to going mano-y-mano with the Rams’ defensive front.
Glenwood has had an advantage on the line of scrimmage against every opponent they have played this season, so don’t expect this game to be much different. However, Sergeant Bluff has a lot of speed on the edges, so the Rams will need to limit the big plays as much as they can. On offense, Glenwood shouldn’t change anything they’ve been doing lately. The Rams averaged 38 points and well over 300 rushing yards per game in the last five games of the regular season, so getting the ground game rolling early will be key.
This is what we wait for all season, Ram Fans. It’s finally playoff football time, and this matchup has all the makings of a classic. Buckle up.
My pick: Glenwood 28, Sergeant Bluff-Luton 27
Kevin’s pick: Glenwood 20, Sergeant Bluff-Luton 17
Traveling to the game? Kickoff is at 7 P.M. in Sergeant Bluff and admission will be $6. Can’t make it? GlenwoodSports.com has you covered with a live audio streaming of the entire game (link on homepage).