Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Hanover Eager to Capitalize on Opportunity

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Hanover Eager to Capitalize on Opportunity

Article excerpt

NEWTON -- It wasn't the manner in which Hanover lost last year's Eight-Man Division II state semifinal game that stung the Wildcats so bad.

Clearly, a 60-14 loss to archrival Baileyville B&B in which the 45-point mercy rule came into play wasn't easy to stomach. But the toughest part for Hanover was seeing its season end one win away from playing for a state championship for the third time in four years.

"It's definitely been one of our driving forces this year," said Hanover coach Matt Heuer, whose team moved up to Division I this season. "That's one of the goals they've had. We've talked all season about getting back to playing in that championship game and they've been extremely focused on getting that done."

Hanover got its breakthrough last week, in the process knocking out the defending Eight-Man Division I champion. Scoring touchdowns on all 10 offensive possessions, the Wildcats blew past Osborne 74- 44 to earn its first trip to the state finals since 2009.

In Saturday's 3:30 p.m. championship game at Newton's Fischer Field, Hanover (12-0) will take on fellow unbeaten Central Plains (12-0), which shut out 2012 champion Ness City, 32-0, in its semifinal clash last week.

The last time Hanover played in Newton, the Wildcats hoisted the 2009 state championship trophy. Hanover knocked off Quivira Heights, 66-36, to capture its second straight Division II crown, beating Victoria, 46-14, for the 2008 title.

Since, however, the Wildcats had dealt with one close call after another, falling in the semifinals in 2010, 2012 and 2013 -- each time to Baileyville.

The near-misses were frustrating to be sure, but Heuer kept his program on task and this season has been one of the best in Wildcat history.

"I've told them you only get so many opportunities at situations like this," Heuer said. "Not too many teams are as blessed to be as successful as we've been and we just need to utilize those opportunities the best we can. You can't sleep on it.

"We were excited once the game was over on Friday night, but it didn't take the kids but 10 seconds of being excited about that before I started hearing, 'We've got to get back to work. We've got one more week, one more game.' "

Hanover has been nearly unstoppable on offense this season, scoring a division-best 724 points (60.3 per game). The Wildcats haven't scored less than 52 in any game this year and have had just two games -- both wins over Osborne -- that didn't end early.

Senior quarterback Andrew Bruna has been a force, throwing for 1,668 yards and 33 touchdowns (just three interceptions) while also rushing for 725 yards and 24 scores. He's had plenty of help as Preston Jueneman has run for 934 yards and 19 scores and Evan Zabokrtsky has 915 yards receiving and 19 touchdown grabs. …

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