Fans making the trip to Tabor on Friday night will not want to be late.
Not only will Friday’s first round game between Fremont-Mills (6-1) and Coon Rapids-Bayard (8-1) playing in a playoff opener, but it could be a fast one as well. The reason is because both teams have a lot of speed on their teams.
Jeffrey Eagle finished the regular season as the fifth-best runner in all of Iowa in terms of yards with 1,879. Just a little farther down the list of state leaders is Seth Malcom, the best runner from Fremont-Mills who has 1,557 yards running this year.
What has helped the Knights gain their yards this year has been their intimidating front line.
“They have a lot of size up front,” said Chris Mohr, the head coach for the Crusaders. “Both guards are 6-foot-2-inches and 265 pounds. Their running back is a good hard runner. Both teams match up really well.”
In their wins this season the Knights have relied heavily on Malcom to move their offense. In order to stop the junior who has scored 27 of the Knights’ 45 touchdowns, Mohr has taught his team to focus on assignment football.
“Everyone needs to do their one-eighth,” Mohr said about the defense. “That means do your job. We need to flow to the ball and tackle well. The running back is tall and strong. We can’t try to tackle him high because that isn’t going to happen. We need to force them to throw the ball because that is something they don’t want to do just like us.”
Like the Knights, the Crusaders have gone to the passing game, but rarely this season. Fremont-Mills has 436 throwing yards on the season. Coon Rapids-Bayard finished the regular season with 386.
Mohr knows that stopping Fremont-Mills is mostly about stopping Malcom, who not only leads the team with rushing yards, but is also the leading tackler.
“They play the same offensive line kids on the defensive line,” Mohr said. “So their defensive line has some nice size. They’ll line up in a 3-4-1 or a 4-3-1 defense. They don’t really don’t do anything that we haven’t seen before. The Malcom kid has a good noise for the ball. He is their leading tackler. We need to make sure we get a body on him every play so he doesn’t have a clean lane to the ball carrier.”
Because of changes in the offseason the Knights ended up with a miniscule schedule this year. They added a week 0 game, but still ended up with just seven regular season games. Coon Rapids-Bayard had nine games, and several games against tough opponents.
Mohr feels like the strength of schedule could be an advantage for the Crusaders. Although the Knights could be more well rested, the Crusaders have experienced players.
Kickoff for the game will be at 7 p.m. in Tabor.