Courier Sports Writer
Offensively, Eric Sanders sets off the fireworks.
Defensively, he watches Oelwein put out the fires.
Sanders enjoyed both roles Wednesday night. The senior quarterback threw for three touchdowns and saw his defense make four clutch stops as the Huskies beat New Hampton, 18-7, in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.
In two respects, Oelwein reached milestones. The Huskies won their second post-season game and first since edging Decorah, 28-27, in a double-overtime game in 1984. No football team in Oelwein school history had won 10 games in one year until Jim Yokas' squad got it done Wednesday.
"It means a ton," said Sanders. "Nobody thought we could do it this year. We were picked to finish fifth in our district. So we're surprising some people and we're just clicking."
While the Huskies regrouped after losing Iowa recruits Chris Felder and Ryan Majerus a year ago, no one has been clicking more than Sanders. After throwing for 2,255 yards in regular-season play, he tacked on 300 more against the Chickasaws with 16 completions in 25 attempts.
The Husky spread offense produced a pair of first-half touchdowns in just three possessions. Connecting on seven straight passes to open the game, Sanders hit Nick VanVeldhuizen on a 29-yard touchdown bomb to cap a 96-yard drive. Then the senior quarterback hooked up with favorite receiver Chris Aldrich on a 23-yarder. That march needed just three snaps.
Sanders, rarely pressured by the Chickasaw defense, finished the scoring when he found Joe Smith for a 40-yard strike in the third quarter.
By the way, Sanders also rushed for 67 of the Huskies' 77 net yards on the ground.
"He's just a player," said Yokas. "He's the reason why we went to this offense."
Said Sanders, "We came out and executed our offense pretty much to perfection in the first half except for the last drive. We were clicking."
New Hampton clicked when Iowa recruit Mike Humpal threw a 35-yard option pass to Nick Hackman in the second quarter.
Even though Humpal accounted for 182 all-purpose yards, even though New Hampton roamed up and down the field much of the night, the Huskies usually found a way to throw up a roadblock.
On the opening series of the game, for example, the Chickasaws powered their way to the Oelwein 6. Needing 3 yards on fourth down, Humpal ran for only 2.
"They made a nice stop on us on that initial drive," said Chickasaw head coach Scott Frerichs. "That was a key play."
The Huskies stonewalled New Hampton on a fourth-and-inches run at their 46 midway through the third quarter. On the Chickasaws' next series, John James and Brooks McLaren stopped Humpal 2 yards short on still another fourth-down play, this time at the Husky 8. Another New Hampton threat ended at the Oelwein 12 when Matt Scherbring forced a fumble that Jackson Brown recovered.
Taking it all in was Sanders, who does not play defense.
"They don't let me do that. They don't want me to get hurt," he said, referring to the Oelwein coaches. "The defense was awesome. I'm so proud of those guys. They've been doing it all year. They let people get down there, but they step it up in the red zone. They don't let people in."
So Oelwein (10-0) moves on to the quarterfinal round. New Hampton's season ends at 8-2.
"We did a lot of terrific things," said Frerichs. "Of course, we're disappointed in tonight, but hopefully we'll look back and remember all the good times and all the big wins."
New Hampton 0 7 0 0 - 7
Oelwein 0 12 6 0 - 18
Oel - Nick VanVeldhuizen 40 pass from Eric Sanders (pass failed)
Oel - Chris Aldrich 23 pass from Sanders (pass failed)
NH - Nick Hackman 35 pass from Mike Humpal (Humpal kick)
Oel - Cris Van Oort 40 pass from Sanders (pass failed)
First downs 20 16
Rushes-yards 47-183 21-77
Passing yards 174 300
Return yards 6 30
Passes 14-30-1 16-25-1
Punts-avg 1-21 2-32
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 2-10 3-25
NEW HAMPTON - Humpal 24-111, Beau Lester 7-41, Hackman 4-16, Dan Kennedy 1-4, Bruce Tierney 11-11
OELWEIN - Sanders 14-67, Brooks McLaren 5-13, Alrich 1-minus 3, Joe Smith 1-0
NEW HAMPTON - Tierney 13-29-1, 139 yards; Humpal 1-1-0, 35 yards
OELWEIN - Sanders 16-25-1, 300 yards
NEW HAMPTON - Shane Lenehan 3-34, Kennedy 5-42, Hackman 2-49, Humpal 3-36, Jon Grote 1-13.
OELWEIN - Aldrich 8-134, VanVeldhuizen 3-57, Smith 3-95, McLaren 2-15.