South Hardin returns to win column after lengthy hiatus
LE GRAND – Sam Shindelar’s recipe for shaking off a five-interception outing was simple.
Practice better than ever before.
The junior quarterback was in command throughout Friday and shook off any lingering memories of the Grundy Center game with a four-touchdown, 242-yard passing performance as South Hardin streaked past East Marshall, 35-19, in the Class 2A District 7 opener.
“My goal was to have the best week of practice I’ve ever had,” said Shindelar. “I think I accomplished that and proved it tonight.”
Shindelar connected with Eric Mulder twice on 58 and 34-yard touchdown strikes, while also hooking up with Bridger Lawrence on a 60-yard pass and David Shindelar on a 39-yard lob. Shindelar’s 60-yard bomb to Lawrence stretched the Tiger lead to 28-13 midway through the third, before his second scoring connection with Mulder – a 34-yard dart – effectively put the game out of reach at 35-13 with 2:56 remaining in the third.
Shindelar wasn’t alone in the breakout performance.
“My offensive line was incredible,” he said. “They did an insanely good job and my receivers did a great job catching the ball too.”
Mulder finished with five receptions for 112 yards and two scores, while Bobby Hatton added 131 rushing yards on just seven carries – including an 83-yard sprint through the middle on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage.
South Hardin’s explosive offense racked up six plays of 30 yards or more. Though Tigers coach Barry Scott saw plenty of areas for his offense and quarterback to improve.
“(Sam) was throwing the ball with some confidence and that’s what we want to see,” said Scott. “We still need to work on attention-to-detail and we’re still going to challenge him to be better. There’s always room for improvement, but he definitely played better and made a lot better decisions. The receivers ran hard, got up and got the ball so give credit to them too.”
The win gave South Hardin (1-2, 1-0), which played at the junior varsity level last fall due to low upperclassmen numbers, its first varsity victory since Sept. 30, 2011, when they also came to Le Grand to defeat the Mustangs.
While some may have doubted their 9-0 mark at the JV level last year, the Tigers backed it up Friday. Though in the end, 2013 marks a brand new slate.
“It’s just a new start,” said Sam Shindelar. “It’s just the beginning.”
East Marshall (0-4, 0-1) had its own strong beginning as the Mustangs marched 82 yards in just more than 6 minutes before Zach Rubenbauer punched in a four-yard score up the middle. The early lead lasted just 21 seconds as Hatton knotted the game with his breakaway score with 5:35 to go in the first.
The teams traded five straight punts, before Shindelar tossed a jump-ball to his brother, David, who came down with the pigskin and dashed 39 yards to give the visitors a 14-7 lead at the 6:14 mark of the second quarter. Rubenbauer pulled the Mustangs back within one with a 9-yard dash with 2:51 in the half, though a false start and a failed two-point conversion kept the lead in the Tigers’ grasp.
And 15 seconds later, Shindelar struck again. The junior delivered a 58-yard rope to Mulder to stretch the margin to 21-13, before his pair of third-quarter strikes put the game out of reach. Rubenbauer paced the Mustangs with 130 yards on 31 carries and added his third touchdown – a 10-yard burst – as time expired. Nick Long chipped in 85 yards on 19 carries.
While the Mustangs have shown steady improvements offensively, the defense found itself on the wrong side of several big plays.
“We’ve been working on it, but we just weren’t in the right place at the right times,” said Long. “They were getting open, running our guys off and we couldn’t get behind them.”
East Marshall coach Pat Farley said his secondary broke a cardinal rule one too many times, which allowed the Tigers to pounce.
“The No. 1 rule of a defensive back is not to let the receiver get behind you and they got behind us and they made us pay for it,” said Farley. “At times we stopped them but five or six big plays led to five or six scores.”
“We’re running harder and we’re blocking better but we still need to go 100 percent, 100 percent of the time,” he added. “We just need to learn how to go a whole game and then the wins will take care of themselves, but right now we’re not doing that.”
Both teams are at home for 7:30 p.m. kickoffs next Friday. The Mustangs host Center Point-Urbana, while the Tigers entertain Roland-Story.
South Hardin’s last varsity victory came against East Marshall in Le Grand on Sept. 30, 2011. The Tigers, who defeated the Mustangs 34-20, suspended its varsity program last year due to low numbers in upperclassmenSouth Hardin finished 9-0 at the JV level last fall. … Hatton had both interceptions for the Tigers.