The Glenwood Rams (3-0, 1-0) will host arch rival Harlan (2-1, 1-0) in a Class 3A District 7 clash that is shaping up to be one for the ages. Coming off two nail biting victories, the Rams will look to pick up a staple win over a Cyclone team that just manhandled fellow District 7 powerhouse Creston.
Following a week one loss to Class 4A #5 Lewis Central, Harlan has been nothing short of outstanding. In week two, the Cyclones trounced Greene County 41-7 to get back on the winning train before taking on Creston, who was ranked eighth in the Des Moines Register’s preseason poll. This matchup featured two highly-regarded 3A programs fighting for the top spot in the district. Seems like an exciting game, right? Wrong. Harlan quickly hushed any anticipation of a back-and-forth slugfest when they jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime. The second half was much of the same, and the Cyclones put themselves back on the map with a 42-7 blowout win over Creston.
As for Glenwood, the start of the 2017 season has been a roller coaster of emotion. After a 45-0 demolition of Abraham Lincoln in week one, the Rams looked as if no one was going to stop them. However, Thomas Jefferson gave Glenwood a massive scare in week two, forcing them to come back from a 14-0 halftime deficit. Last week seemed like deja vu when the Rams trailed 12-0 to the Carroll Tigers after three quarters. Fortunately for Glenwood, some Carroll mistakes and a couple of big plays down the stretch allowed them to erase the Tiger lead and come away with a 13-12 victory. Being the only undefeated team left in District 7, Glenwood is looking to jump into that metaphorical driver’s seat and run the table from here on out. However, they will first have to get past a Harlan team that is just as determined to get another signature victory.
Just to add to the storyline and excitement surrounding this game, legendary Head Coach Curt Bladt of Harlan will be seeking his 400th career win when he and his Cyclones roll into Glenwood on Friday night. With a 399-59 career record (including 11 state titles) in his 40 seasons coaching at Harlan, there is no doubt Bladt has seen these kinds of big games before, and he will have his troops ready.
The biggest problem Bladt and the Clones will have to deal with is their quarterback situation. Before the season kicked off, senior all-district quarterback Deren Schmitz and senior all-district running back Nick Foss were expected to be Harlan’s dangerous one-two punch on offense. However, Schmitz has had to spend his senior season on the sideline nursing a hand injury. Just to make matters worse, second string Brett Sears injured his arm last week against Creston, putting Harlan three spots down on the depth chart at quarterback.
Junior Preston Mulligan will likely be taking the snaps for the Cyclones on Friday night. Mulligan played much of the game against Lewis Central in week one, and then played most of the night against Creston last week. On the season, Mulligan has completed 13 of 30 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, but has also thrown three interceptions.
Despite the quarterback debacle, the Cyclones should be looking to run their offense through Foss, who racked up jaw dropping numbers against Creston last week. Foss’ 231 yards and five touchdowns helped lift Harlan to that blowout win, so don’t be surprised if they look to him again this week. With a season total 481 yards on just 60 attempts, he averaged a whopping eight yards per carry through the first three games. Needless to say, the Ram defense will have their hands full.
The Glenwood defensive unit have been no slouches themselves, however. Not only have they allowed just 26 total points through the first three weeks, but they have also held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing in every game. This will be key as the Cyclones will likely go to their ground game often on Friday. The Ram defensive front is led by senior all-state lineman Caleb Sanders, who is first on the team in tackles with 19, 15 of which are solo stops. Calling the shots on defense will be junior middle linebacker Eli Bales. Bales left the Carroll game with an arm injury in the second half, but returned to practice Wednesday and will be good to go on Friday night.
Senior quarterback Andrew Blum will lead the offense for Glenwood. Blum will need to be at his best after a shaky performance last week in which he threw an interception and coughed up the rock twice. Despite his struggles last week, Blum has played a massive part in the last two come-from-behind wins for the Rams. After using his legs to lead the way on the ground against TJ, he used his cannon last week against Carroll when he fired a 72 yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Cody Buresh late in the game.
Another player to keep your eye on in Glenwood’s offensive backfield will be junior fullback Noah Carter. Carter ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries last week after rushing for over 70 yards the week prior.
Getting the rushing attack rolling and limiting early mistakes will be pivotal for the Rams in this game. In the last two weeks, Glenwood has had a combined seven first-half turnovers. The defense has proven itself with three stellar performances in a row, so if the offense can stay away from the miscues, expect some all around good football from the Rams.
Playoff implications, a district driver’s seat, a 400th win for Coach Bladt and of course, bragging rights will all be on the line at Ram Memorial Field come Friday night. This matchup has just about as much hype as one could possibly ask for in a small town Iowa football game. The only thing left to do is wait and see.
My pick: Glenwood 22, Harlan 21
Kevin’s pick: Glenwood 20, Harlan 14