Any football coach will tell you that a healthy team is the strongest team. And sometimes, the primary goal coming out of a game is as simple as keeping your available players healthy.
Just ask Bloomfield coach Matt Kuchar, who said just as much after the Class D No. 6 Bees improved to 2-0 on the young season with a 56-26 victory over St. Mary’s Friday in O’Neill.
The first thing he mentioned in his postgame interview was the absence of senior quarterback Braden Eisenhauer, a three-year starter who is still taking snaps despite nursing a lower leg injury. He attempted five passes, completing two for 81 yards in the first half, but Eisenhauer took just one more snap in the game.
“He makes that offense go,” Kuchar said about Eisenhauer. “But we knew we had Logan Johnson, and he really stepped up there.”
Freshman Brock Barney took snaps for most of the first 2½ quarters, but with Johnson, a senior power running back wearing down the host Cardinals, the Bees ultimately had Johnson take snaps the rest of the game. Johnson finished with 215 yards and seven touchdowns on 31 carries, and sophomore Cody Bruegman added 90 yards on 11 carries. The Bloomfield offensive line — 230-pound sophomore Dalton Gieselman, 220-pound junior Gabe Lauck and 240-pound senior Daniel Bruegman — took control.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Kuchar said about the team’s latest win. “Our O-line is solid.”
Bloomfield is another one of those area eight-man programs that doesn’t have many players on the team to begin with, either.
“The injuries are what’s concerning for me,” he said. “With just 16 guys, we’ve got to make sure we’re keeping their bodies like temples.”
How else do you prevent injuries — wrap the players in bubble wrap?
“I guess,” Kuchar said. “Throughout the week, we don’t go and beat the snot out of them because we just don’t have that ability.”
ST. MARY’S finds itself in a similar position just two weeks into the season. Sophomore quarterback Aidan Hedstrom, who started last year as a freshman, and junior end Connor Semin both missed Friday’s game as a result of early-season injuries. Coach Tony Allen said it meant the Cardinals had to play without two of their top players, and usual running back Tate Thompson was taking snaps at quarterback.
“When you tell him stuff, he does it, and he gets it done,” Allen said about Thompson. “He has high IQ, he’s a good kid and he’s a good student.”
The loss came with a silver lining: If it was a two-touchdown game going into the fourth quarter — St. Mary’s trailed 34-20 through three — imagine what it could have been with Hedstrom and Semin in the lineup. And, with just one senior on this year’s roster, the future appears brighter than what even Allen might have envisioned.
“When we get those two boys back, we’re going to be a really decent team,” he said. “We have kids who are learning so many new positions, they’re going to know the offense and defense so well. We’re going to be able to move people all over the place.
“Bloomfield is a good test to see where we are with two of our top three or four players out,” Allen said. “I’m pleased. I’m real pleased.”
Class C changes
This might be the first time in history that a team won 52-12 and dropped a spot in the ratings after that week.
Although Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur defeated Ponca by that wide margin, an 18-point win over preseason No. 6 Cedar Catholic pales in comparison to the 50-13 thrashing administered by Oakland-Craig. Because of that, the Wolverines drop a spot as a result of promoting the Knights at No. 2.
North Bend Central joins the ratings this week at No. 4, leapfrogging both Battle Creek and Norfolk Catholic on the strength of its 2-0 start against out-of-area competition. The Braves stay steady at fifth after Friday’s victory over Twin River.
Norfolk Catholic stays in for the meantime at No. 6, although its spot is more tenuous after surrendering 14 points in the final 90 seconds of a 14-3 loss at David City Aquinas.
Class D discussion
Through two weeks of the eight-man football season, there are just six area teams with a 2-0 start to the season.
Granted, much of that is a byproduct of the fact that Class D squads play an eight-game schedule in nine weeks, thus creating a bye week during the season. But it’s still noteworthy how many teams had a bye week early in the season.
Four of those teams were already in the ratings before the week, and with preseason No. 4 Guardian Angels Central Catholic dropping its second straight game to begin the season, another spot opened up.
Wisner-Pilger moved up to seventh after a narrow 20-14 win over East Butler — the same team that beat GACC in the opener — and Neligh-Oakdale improved to eighth after scoring 30 fourth-quarter points in a 70-36 triumph at Ainsworth, while idle Allen remained ninth.
The final spot went to Plainview, which served notice with a 50-24 decision over Randolph. The Pirates started the year with an impressive 42-12 victory over Wynot.