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PREP FOOTBALL

Trio of ball-carriers have Garner-Hayfield-Ventura football ready for playoffs

In his first year leading the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura (GHV) football team, head coach Brandon Kammrad says he's learned plenty about the right ways to lead a team.

GHV football vs Forest City - Van Dusseldorp, Tusha, Snyder

GHV's Rafe Van Dusseldorp (55) and A.J. Tusha (2) catch up with Forest City's Andrew Snyder (84) during a game in Garner earlier this season.

He gave credit to his assistant coaches after a 25-14 win over Forest City in Garner on Friday night in Class 2A, District 3 play, which locked up the fourth-seed and a playoff berth.

Having three ball-carriers with different skill-sets also helps.

"I think we're a physical team that can play in space," Kammrad said. "We're better at running at you, but we can also play in space as well."

GHV football vs Forest City - Pueggel

GHV's Owen Pueggel (9) looks to pass during a Class 2A, District 3 game against Forest City in Week 8.

The Cardinals have three players that carry the ball who attack defenses in different ways. All three, behind a stout offensive line, were on display on Friday night.

Senior Evan Sloan, known as the power-back in the GHV offense, rushed the ball 16 times for 84 yards and a touchdown in the win. He also caught a 21-yard touchdown pass where he ran right through a couple Indian defenders.

GHV football vs Forest City - Furst, Feldma, Siddell

Ben Furst (18) tries to evade Forest City's Vinton Feldman (88) and Trevor Siddell (57) during a game in Garner on Friday.

Senior Ben Furst led the Cardinals in yards with 17 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. He's more of the traditional running back, capable of beating defenses with speed and power.

Sophomore Mason Graham is the third back in the offense. The shiftiest of the three, Graham is used to running the ball and catching it. He rushed the six times for 32 yards and caught a 31-yard touchdown pass on Friday.

"We all have the same goal in mind," Sloan said. "Just get as far as we can no matter what. If Ben's got to go around somebody and use his speed, then that's fine. I usually try going through people. It works for us three."

Garner-Hayfield-Ventura vs Forest City - Sloan, Pueggel

Garner-Hayfield-Ventura's Owen Pueggel (9) hands the ball off to Evan Sloan (35) at a home game against Forest City earlier in the season.

Despite the trio's talent, it hasn't always been pretty at times for the Cardinals. GHV has played a challenging schedule and has lost more games than its won.

But a second district win against Forest City was enough to qualify the Cardinals for the Class 2A playoffs. Outside of last season, in which all team's qualified for the postseason due to the COVID-19-shortened season, it's the first time GHV has qualified for the playoffs since 2015.

“It’s very exciting,” Kammrad said. “Last year was kind of a weird year all around with everybody getting in, it is what it is. But it’s big for these guys. It’s really nice to get back in there, because it should be expected. These guys earned it all the way.”

The Cardinals now shift the focus to their playoff opponent - District 1 champion West Lyon.

As all top-seeded teams usually are, the Wildcats will be favored over the Cardinals in the matchup on Friday.

But Kammrad says his boys will be ready.

"Our guys have always been great about playing the next team," Kammrad said. "No matter who they are, I don't think we've ever been scared of a team we've lined up against. Even if the papers and the outside world say we don't have a chance, we believe that we do have a chance."

The Cardinals (2-6, 2-3) will travel to play the Wildcats (6-2, 5-0) at 7 p.m. on Friday at West Lyon.

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

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