Last Friday was an interesting night at Belmond-Klemme.
The Broncos had to beat South Winneshiek on their home turf to assure themselves a spot in the Class 1A playoffs. After an uncharacteristic performance, B-K dropped a 39-0 defeat and the questions started to fly.
Would they get in? Was their point differential good enough? If they get in, how far do they have to travel?
“We knew we had a shot with points, and afterward we pulled the kids in nice and tight and told them the way we played Friday, that was not our defining moment. It was the eight games prior,” B-K coach Darwin Christensen said.
After the players had all gone home following the tough loss, the coaches hung back to wait on the playoff pairings, not knowing what the future would hold.
Around midnight, the state released tentative playoff qualifiers, and the Broncos had made it as a wild card. A little more than two hours later, B-K had its opponent, No. 2 Van Meter on the road.
“I’m excited they got this extra opportunity to go out there,” Christensen said of his team. “They want to redeem themselves from last Friday and I’m just very happy they get the chance to do that.”
After all the waiting, the Broncos finally got to go back to work with their sights set on matching their output from the first eight games.
Aside from that outlier last Friday, B-K’s defense had been its No. 1 strength.
The Broncos (7-2) allowed 8.75 points per game over their first eight games. In those games, the offense was also rolling as it scored 24.9 per game.
It was those, plus the Broncos’ emphasis on winning the special teams war, which propelled them to new heights and put them in a position to make the playoffs.
“We played solid defense all year long,” Christensen said. “We kept people out of the end zone, kept everything real tight and gave our offense an opportunity to succeed.”
That offense was helped by a change in scheme early on that moved them from a pass-first offense to one built around a power-running game. The offensive line growing up around that certainly helped, too.
What stands out most is the work Sergio Suarez, Tucker Kroeze and Easton Barrus did.
Suarez led the ground game with 928 yards and 12 touchdowns, Kroeze had 434 yards and eight touchdowns, and Barrus threw for 675 and ran for 356 more.
“Tucker Kroeze, he’s probably one of the most physical kids in our district,” Christensen said. “There were probably a lot of defensive ends at the end of the night sick of seeing No. 40 coming at them because he brings the thunder.
“Sergio, once he got to the second or third level, he was able to put a lot of moves on and off he went.”
B-K will most likely need all parts of its game working tonight when it heads to Van Meter for its playoff opener at 7 p.m.
Van Meter is coming off an undefeated regular season, shutting out five of its opponents and averaging 43.5 points per game.
Senior quarterback Blake Fryar has a 60.3 completion percentage for 1,228 yards passing. Senior Carson Rhodes leads the team in rushing with 1,498 yards.
“They are a very good team, but everybody playing (tonight) is a good team or you wouldn’t be playing. The kids know that and the coaches know that,” Christensen said.
“But I couldn’t be more proud of our group of young men. They set their goals and it’s fun to see them achieve them.”