Hanover tops St. Francis for the 8-Man II title

Trio of cousins lead the way
Published: Nov. 28, 2020 at 3:34 PM CST
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NEWTON, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Hanover junior Emmitt Jueneman and seniors Colin and Jacob Jueneman are cousins. They’ve had multiple older siblings and cousins play on previous Hanover state title teams under coach Matt Heuer. The Juenemans have taken many trips to Newton to watch the Wildcats at state.

“All the time,” Emmitt said with a smile.

On Saturday, the Jueneman trio helped Hanover defeat St. Francis, 46-24, to capture the Eight-Man, Division II state championship at Newton’s Fischer Field. While Heuer last won a title in ’18, none of the current Wildcats played a significant role on that squad. Last fall, Hanover returned just one starter, lineman Jonah Weber, and lost to rival Axtell in the state semifinals.

“It’s great,” Jacob said. “We have been working for this for so long, and it finally paid off.”

In 16 years at his alma mater, Heuer is 6-3 in state titles. He tied Hanston’s Jerry Slaton for the most championships by an eight-man coach in Kansas history, according to KSHSAA archives.

This year, the Wildcats completed an 11-0 season and came back from an early 12-0 deficit versus St. Francis. Hanover scored 30 unanswered points in the second quarter. The game changed with 10 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first half when Hanover stopped St. Francis on a 4th-and-1 at the Indian 33-yard line.

“From the get go, we knew that they were going to hit us hard,” Jacob said. “We knew they were big and physical, and we knew we had our work cut out for us, and then we just kept telling ourselves that ‘We are seniors, we don’t want to end this way.’ We have got to keep fighting, keep fighting, and then we came back and took the lead, and just kept going from there.”

Jacob, in his second year as the starting quarterback, finished 16 of 25 for 170 yards and four passing touchdowns. He also rushed for a TD.

Colin, a two-year all-purpose threat, was used in a variety of ways, including in motion, jets, short passes and even a backwards pass that went for a 38-yard run. He delivered 15 offensive touches for 120 yards and a pair of TDs.

Emmitt caught six passes for 125 yards and two scores. It marked his second 100-yard receiving game of his career. Emmitt had one catch apiece in the last two games. In Heuer’s eyes, SF focused on taking away Colin and junior Keagan Dimler.

“The way they were playing us, I thought that they gave us a little bit with Emmitt,” Heuer said. “…Emmitt did a really good job of stepping up and making some huge plays for us.”

SF is 0-3 all-time in finals with losses in ’16 and ’19 in the Division I title game. Last season, SF was up 36-0 and lost 66-36 to Canton-Galva. The Indians returned all but two players and finished 11-1.

“They just have a lot of athletes,” St. Francis coach Nick Fawcett said. “They did a good job of getting their athletes in space, and maybe we as a staff didn’t have our kids prepared enough to handle that, and I think that was probably the difference in the game.”

Hanover senior Blake Hynek, the team’s biggest player at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds helped stop SF senior running back Shadyron Blanka for no gain the key 4th-and-1.

“We don’t like to punt,” Fawcett said.

Blanka, possibly eight-man’s best all-around player, rushed for more than 2,200 yards this year. He finished with 32 carries for 230 yards and two TDs, a 65-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and a 56-yard score in the third quarter.

“Our kids, they do a really good job with rolling with momentum,” Heuer said. “And once the momentum got on our side, I thought our kids started to believe. They started to have that feeling that they normally feel throughout the course of the game to where they started to build on each other.”

On the next play after the fourth down, Emmitt Jueneman caught an 11-yard pass, his first catch of the game.

“There was just times that I could see the opening, and I find it and I hit that, and luckily my quarterback hit me wide open,” Emmitt said.

Then, Jacob Jueneman scored from five yards out. Hanover converted the two-point play and trailed 12-8. Three plays later, the Indians fumbled at their 38-yard line.

In 1-on-1 coverage, Emmitt Jueneman hauled in a 38-yard scoring pass from Jacob on the ensuing snap. Hanover was up 14-12 with 5:13 remaining in the first half.

“I am just extremely proud of my boys and how they handled the situation, how they continued to battle,” Heuer said. “Stay the course and not get shook. Understand that we can strike at any point, and I thought our kids did a really good job of staying the course.”

Then, Hanover senior Jacob Klipp picked off SF at the Hanover 29-yard line and returned it to the Indian eight. Hanover, known for its short passing game, continued to make big plays off the quick throws.

“Our kids did a really good job of never letting up and fighting through the end,” Heuer said.

Jacob Jueneman threw to Colin Jueneman in the flat, and he raced 15 yards for a TD. Hanover went up 22-12. Sophomore Josh Zarybnicky picked off St. Francis with 46 seconds remaining in the first half.

With nine seconds to go, Jacob again found Colin with a short pass in the right flat. St. Francis had confusion on the play, and Colin was wide open. He raced in for the score. The conversion bumped the margin to 30-12 at intermission. Emmitt opened the second half with a 40-yard score off another quick pass.

“Once we started stopping them more on defense, our offensive snowball kept building up and building up, and our momentum started to go more and more,” Emmitt said.

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