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Explosive offense, stout defense propels West Hancock to quarterfinal win over Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn

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The Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn offense crossed the midfield line and entered West Hancock territory four different times on Friday night in Britt.

All four times, the Eagles didn't allow a score.

Behind the shutout performance on defense, and explosive plays on offense, the No. 1 West Hancock football team rolled through Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn (HMS), 27-0, in the Class A quarterfinal on Friday night in Britt.

West Hancock football vs Hartley-Melvin-Sandborn quarterfinals - celebration

West Hancock's Eric Martinez (65) celebrates after winning the Class A quarterfinals against H-M-S in Britt on Friday.

The win sends the Eagles back to the state semifinals at the UNI-Dome for the first time since 2019.

"It's something we've always dreamed of doing," senior Braden Walk said. "We've done it in the past few years, but losing a hard one last year at home put a little bad taste in our mouth. We worked extremely hard this offseason. We never gave up and we fought hard."

West Hancock head coach Mark Sanger was proud of his team's effort on both sides of the ball, but was extra happy with another shutout by his defense.

It's the fourth shutout of the year, and it keeps West Hancock's streak of not allowing more than one touchdown in a game all season alive.

"The field is 100 yards long," Sanger said. "No matter where they're at, as long as they're not in the end zone yet, run them down, hold them out. Run them down, hold them out. Whatever it is, do what you can. And our guys have bought into that."

Over 250 yards of rushing and three touchdowns by senior fullback Mathew Francis also didn't hurt.

But Francis and the Eagles struggled to get things going on offense right away. After struggling on its opening two drives in its secondary shotgun offense, West Hancock (11-0) went back to its traditional under-center offense in the second quarter after an interception by junior Rylan Barnes on defense.

West Hancock football vs Hartley-Melvin-Sandborn quarterfinals - Barnes

West Hancock's Rylan Barnes (5) makes a final punt after running the clock down to end the game against H-M-S during the Class A quarterfinals on Friday.

Francis finally put the Eagles on the board with a 43-yard touchdown run. The Eagles took a 6-0 lead with just over four minutes remaining.

The Hawks (8-3) drove down the field near the end of the first half. Again, the visitors couldn’t come up with a score. This time, two false start penalties in the final 15 seconds resulted in a scoreless first half and a West Hancock lead at the break.

The second half was more of the same for the West Hancock defense, but Eagles found their groove offensively.

On his first carry of the night, Walk carried the ball 75 yards for the score, weaving in and out of the HMS defense in the process. That gave the Eagles a 12-0 lead after a failed 2-point conversion.

West Hancock football vs Hartley-Melvin-Sandborn quarterfinals -

West Hancock's Braden Walk (11) slips past H-M-S during the Class A quarterfinals in Britt on Friday.

"My tight end Rylan got the big block for me, and I was like, dang we're going to be gone right here," Walk said. "I saw they were over-pursuing and I just made the right moves. My lineman were hustling down the field to keep blocking. I'm just glad we scored."

Francis capped off his night with touchdown runs of 48 yards and 44 yards, respectively, at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth. The 27-0 lead was all but insurmountable for the Hawks.

Francis finished the night with 21 carries for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

"Our team has grit," Francis said. "We figured out that if we just keep hammering, that's exactly what's going to work."

West Hancock football vs Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn quarterfinals -

Mathew Francis looks back at the sideline after a touchdown run on Friday night during the Class A quarterfinal game against Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn.

The Eagles will play East Buchanan in the state semifinals at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

Gunnar Davis covers sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.

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