WEST UNION — Class 2A’s top-ranked North Fayette Valley was up to the challenge.
The TigerHawks plugged a variety of hard-nosed rushers into their systematic Wing-T attack and swarmed their opposition with suffocating defense as they transformed a highly-anticipated showdown with No. 2 Union into a landslide victory, 56-21, at Ron Wymer Field.
North Fayette Valley senior Tanner Kuhens carried the load early as he rushed for three first-half touchdowns, including an impressive 36-yard score in which he followed his blocks to the edge and broke a pair of downfield tackles, before finishing with 90 yards on a 14 carries.
Jesse Mackey also helped set the tone for the TigerHawks when he ran 51 yards untouched for a score off a third-and-10 counter on the game’s opening drive and was plugged into the fullback position when Tanner’s twin brother, Trey Kuhens, went down with a first-half injury. Mackey finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
In total, North Fayette Valley racked up 385 rushing yards with Chase Hollinrake adding a 92-yard counter run in the fourth quarter as he filled Mackey’s wingback position. Quarterback Tate Hovden also scored from 8-yards out.
For North Fayette Valley, a tradition of dominating the line of scrimmage continued.
“I’m really confident in our hoggies up front that they can make their blocks and get us the yards we need to win games,” Mackey said.
The TigerHawks punted just twice in the game and finished with no turnovers.
It went as well as planned for Coach Bob Lape.
“We like to just move the chains, control and clock a little bit and keep the defense off the field,” Lape said. “Union is a good team. We knew we weren’t going to stop them. We just kept playing hard and things went our way.”
In addition to his physical line, the TigerHawk coach is confident in the variety of options at his disposal within their three-man backfield.
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“There’s no one guy that’s the guy,” Lape said. “Trey Kuhens had a stinger and we pulled him out and put another guy at fullback, put another guy at wingback. They’re all very hard runners, they’ve all got speed.”
Defensively, North Fayette Valley also was tough.
A third-down tackle for loss and blocked punt by linebacker Josh Guenther on back-to-back plays set up a 23-yard drive that helped North Fayette Valley take a four-touchdown lead into halftime on a Tanner Kuhens goal-line plunge.
After being held to just 48 yards of offense in the opening half, Union managed to move the ball well through the final two quarters but untimely turnovers and an inability to slow down the TigerHawks offense prevented a comeback.
A fumbled exchange was returned 64 yards by Jace Burrow to set up a 12-yard Mackey touchdown run on what would become North Fayette Valley’s only offensive play of the third quarter.
Union scored back-to-back on 7-yards passes from Troy Hanus to Koby Alpers after recovering an onside kick in the third quarter. Knights standout Isaiah Vaughan broke a 58-yard shovel pass for a touchdown as part of his 77-yard rushing and 77-yard receiving night before North Fayette Valley’s Burrow returned an interception 65-yards to conclude the scoring.
North Fayette Valley (8-0, 6-0) will finish its season at home against a Waukon team that has just one district loss.
“We still want to be undefeated district champions and we want to have some home playoff games here,” Lape said. “We want to go into the playoffs on high so we’re going to challenge our kids and make sure they’re ready to go.”
Union (7-1, 5-1) will host Cascade as it looks to secure a playoff spot.
“They beat us up front on both sides of the ball,” Union Coach Joe Hadachek said. “Their kids played extremely hard and all credit goes to North Fayette.
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“We’ve been here in the same scenario before. Obviously we’ve got a lot of things we still need to work on and I think it’s a good gut check, leadership check for our football team going into the last game.”