A big second half propelled the Easton Valley River Hawks to the eight-man football quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. 

The River Hawks, ranked No. 9 in Iowa eight-man football, routed the seventh-ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels 55-0 for the second season in a row. (Last year’s score was 55-6.)

The River Hawks coaching staff noticed its linebackers were crashing down and in. So, Coach Tony Johnson made some small adjustments in the locker room at halftime. 

“We did not run any counters in the first half,” Johnson explained.

The River Hawks led 14-0 at halftime and received the ball to start the third quarter. Two plays later, Porter Fuegen took the snap and followed a trio of blockers on a counter play over the left end and ran 68 yards for a touchdown. 

After forcing a Rebels punt, the River Hawks took over on their own 20 yard line. On the first snap, EV quarterback Conor Gruver handed the ball off to Kolton Murphy on a trap play over the right side. Murphy ran 60 yards for another touchdown. 

“Coming out of halftime we wanted to get the ball rolling and put a lot of pressure on them,” Johnson said. “After we hit them with a couple of trap plays for touchdowns, it put (the Rebels) on their heels and took the wind out of their sails.” 

The River Hawks scored 27 points in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 41-0, forcing a continuous clock, and securing the victory.

“Our defense does not get enough credit,” Johnson said. “The game plan was simple Wherever the Rebels’ star running back Keagan Giesking went we wanted seven defenders there harassing him and getting him to the turf.” 

It worked as Giesking — Iowa’s rushing leader with 2,153 yards on 274 attempts and 32 rushing touchdowns — was held to just 26 yards on 22 attempts. The defense held the Rebels to just one first down and 38 total yards in the game. 

The pass defense also played well as the River Hawks held the Rebels to one completion on 10 tries for lost yards and forced three interceptions. 

“Our defensive ends do a really great job of containing and everything just flows right into our linebackers,” Johnson said. “Senior Daken Kramer played an outstanding game for us.”

Fuegen finished the night with four rushing touchdowns, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. In three EV playoff games, Fuegen has six rushing touchdowns, 158 yards on the ground, and caught 15 passes for 308 yards and six more touchdowns. He also notched up four interceptions and 18 tackles. 

“The other teams key in on Murphy, so when I run the ball it catches them off guard,” Fuegen explained. “We have great blocking all season and I just follow my blockers.”

Murphy started slow, with only 36 yards in the first period. He was hard to stop from there as he rushed for 209 yards on the night with 24 attempts and three touchdowns.

Gruver threw for 137 yards completing nine of 17 passes and one touchdown. 

Last week’s win puts Easton Valley one win away from a trip to the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls again this season. 

“This year’s squad is different from last year’s team, but the common goal remains the same,” stated Johnson. “We have much more balance on offense and we’re probably faster on defense.”

The River Hawks face another tough opponent in the Montezuma Braves. The Braves sport the best passing attack in eight-player football. The River Hawks travel to Montezuma for a 7 p.m. game Friday, Nov. 6.

Easton Valley 55

Gladbrook-Reinbeck 0

EV   6   8   27  14 — 55

GR   0   0   0    0   — 0

Team statistics         EV            G-R

First Downs                19              1

Rushing yards            312            39

Passing yards             137           (-1)

Passing TD/INT          1/0            0/3

Total plays                  58            39

Total offense              449           38

Fumbles/lost              0/0           1/1

Penalties/yards         6/50          4/40

Punts/average          2/22.5       5/32.6

Individual statistics

Passing (Player Comp-Att-Yrds-TDs-INTs) Conor Gruver 9-17-137-1-0 

Rushing — Kolton Murphy 24-209; Porter Fuegen 10-81; Gruver 7-22.

Receiving — Carson Fuegen 2-58; P. Fuegen 4-46; Parker Olson 1-19; Murphy 2-14. 

Tackle Leaders — Keaton Wilson 9.0; Hayden Felkey 6.5; Andin Farrell 6.0; Daken Kramer 4.5.

Interception —P. Fuegen 2; C. Fuegen 1.

Fumble Recoveries — Felkey.

Sacks — None.