MANKATO, Kan. - Hanover has set multiple individual and single season Kansas eight-man records in coach Matt Heuer’s 15-year tenure. On Friday, the Wildcats etched themselves with a mark that signified their long-time success as a program.
Hanover defeated Mankato-Rock Hills, 66-16, in an Eight-Man, Division II road contest. The game was called with 4 minutes, 38 seconds left in the contest because of the 45-point margin rule. The Wildcats have captured 41 straight victories and tied Almena-Northern Valley (’85-88) for the longest eight-man winning streak in the KSHSAA era that started in 1969.
“It says a lot about our community,” Heuer, a Hanover alum, said. “I think it says a lot about the clientele that I get to work with or that us coaches get to work with on a daily basis. It says a lot about the pride that comes along with putting on a Hanover uniform. I think that’s the key thing. It’s not just about one team. It’s not just about two teams. It’s about the community and what they do, and how they support and how they go about it.”
Top-ranked Hanover, the three-time defending state champions, led 24-0 at halftime and 38-0 midway through the third quarter behind huge games from senior running back Taegan Schwartz and junior running back/returner Colin Jueneman.
“They just obviously played with more energy, and I think they should us what it really means to play hard,” Rock Hills coach Colby Hamel said. “So hopefully that’s an eye-opener for our guys.”
Senior Jonah Weber, the lone returning starter, helped open holes and finished with four tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. Hanover will go for the record next Friday at home versus Blue Valley Randolph.
“It’s great,” Weber said, flashing a big smile. “That’s history, that’s history. I’m going to be reading about that in a magazine here 10, 15, 20 years, but we don’t have the record yet. We still have another game next week that we are going to need to focus on, and hopefully next weekend, we will be able to say that we hold the longest consecutive win streak in eight-man Kansas history.”
In the first quarter, Weber pulled out to block on the edge. He was poked in the eye and had his contact pop out. After the game, Weber had a bruise under his left eye.
“I’ve been kind of playing with two visions,” Weber said.
Defensively, Weber led a unit that held Rock Hills’ senior all-purpose standout Rylee Whelchel to zero yards on his first eight touches. Whelchel tallied both of RH’s touchdowns on a 36-yard run in the third quarter, and a 41-yard interception return in the fourth.
“If there’s one play that they break in a four-quarter game, I feel like our kids did exceptionally well,” Heuer said.
Hanover continually had Schwartz and Jueneman with the ball in open space.
“That’s my favorite place to be,” Jueneman said.
Schwartz rushed 17 times for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jueneman served as a role player last year, didn’t play in Week 1 and was mainly used as a receiver in Week 2. He scored all three first half touchdowns with a six-yard run and a 47-yard kick return touchdown in the first quarter. In the second, he delivered a 25-yard scoring run.
“Tonight, we knew with what we were capable of doing, we were able to bring him a little bit more into the running situation with what we thought game plan-wise would be effective for us,” Heuer said. “He does a great job. He is an effective ball carrier, he’s an effective receiver. He is good on the outside. He can run on the inside. He is a very versatile playmaker for us.”
Jueneman is part of a large Hanover family with multiple older siblings who were former Wildcat standouts. He doesn’t watch a lot of football. Jueneman likes to be outside and has often worked with his step brother, sophomore Keagan Dimler, on a grass footwork drill in the last eight years.
“We go at it back and forth in the yard,” Jueneman said. “And just trying to break his ankles is always fun. … Try to make each other better, and every week, I tell them that, ‘You’ve got to be better, you’ve got to push yourself, we need you out there.’”
The work paid off as Jueneman delivered a nifty move on the second half kickoff and outran Rock Hills’ defense for a 79-yard touchdown. He later added a 40-yard touchdown run. Overall, he finished with five carries for 127 yards.
“What I like to do is take my time, let the blocks form, and then after that, it’s just getting a hole, and hitting it as hard as you can,” Jueneman said. “Jonah does a great job blocking. Everybody out there, it’s always nice to have these guys out there blocking there for me.”
Rock Hills had led Division II in scoring offense with 144 points in the first two weeks. Whelchel had rushed for more than 600 yards. RH opened the game with an 11-play drive that stalled out at the Hanover 17-yard line.
“We set the precedent that we needed to contain the outside,” Weber said. “And also one person attempting to tackle Rylee isn’t going to work, so we made sure that we corralled him, had four or five guys flowing to the ball.”
Hanover (3-0) started slowly in the first two games, though quickly scored on a seven-play drive capped by a six-yard run from Jueneman.
“It was really important that we had a quick start,” Heuer said.
On the next drive, 2-1 Rock Hills finished with no offensive yards. A bad punt snap yielded a safety for an 8-0 lead.
“We sustained our blocks way better, and I thought we just did a better job of kind of setting the tone in the run game early,” Heuer said. “And I think we kind of fed off of that, and defensively, we knew that with their athleticism, that we had make to sure that we got four or five guys to the ball, and I thought we did a really good job of being assignment-sound.”
On the next play, Jueneman caught a high arcing kick with plenty of space in front of him. He scored with four seconds left in the first half for a 16-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, Hanover nearly ended the game on a safety when the Wildcats tackled Rock Hills quarterback Jerrod Gillet at the one-yard line.
However, Rock Hills punted, and Hanover scored the game-winning points on an 11-yard run from sophomore Emmit Jueneman to tie the state mark at 9:07 p.m. Weber raised his hands in celebration, while Heuer and longtime assistants Chris Beikmann and John Bruna walked calmly back to the bench. Heuer carried one of his sons into the postgame huddle.
“Our kids do a really good job of buying into what we try to do as a program, and what we try to do both offensively and defensively,” Heuer said. “As you go, there’s certain things that we try to look at from week to week as far as what they do defensively, and where we think we might be able to attack them and have a little bit of success.”