Potent passing attack a part of Rebels’ return to Dome

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM RING • Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s potent aerial attack features a bevy of capable pass-catchers. Pictured behind starting center Jed Peterson are, from left: receivers Erik Knaack, Walker Thede and Matt Johannsen, quarterback Hunter Lott, fullback Gage Murty and receiver Matt Roeding.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM RING • Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s potent aerial attack features a bevy of capable pass-catchers. Pictured behind starting center Jed Peterson are, from left: receivers Erik Knaack, Walker Thede and Matt Johannsen, quarterback Hunter Lott, fullback Gage Murty and receiver Matt Roeding.

REINBECK — The past two years, the passing game of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck football has taken a backseat to the run game. Now as the Rebels embark on their third-straight trip to the UNI-Dome, it’s the passing game’s turn to take center stage.

When No. 2 Gladbrook-Reinbeck heads into its semifinal game against No. 1 Saint Ansgar (11-0) in the Class A Iowa High School State Football Playoffs at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, the Rebels (11-0) will be bringing a passing game responsible for 42.8 percent of the offense’s yardage output thus far in the 2016 season. That’s up from the passing accounting for 37.6 percent of the offense in 2015, and just 24.3 percent in 2014.

“I think we understand the concepts we’re trying to get across,” said G-R coach John Olson. “I think our quarterback is extremely efficient. Some games he might get sacked four, five, six times, but he protects the ball. He’s only thrown two interceptions to 17 touchdowns. He’s just real efficient with the ball.”

The passing game played second fiddle to Eric Stoakes in 2014 and 2015, but for good reason. Stoakes ran for 4,094 yards and 59 touchdowns in his final two seasons at G-R, helping the Rebels to a pair of appearances in the state championship game, including setting a Class A championship game record, running for 282 yards in last year’s 52-20 win against Akron-Westfield.

In 2015, Jake Schuman threw 20 touchdowns in G-R’s 14 games. In 2014, Cam Kickbush tossed 15, with Schuman throwing another two. This season, through 11 games, Hunter Lott has already thrown 17 touchdown passes. Completing 64.2 percent of his passes on 70-of-109 passing, Lott has thrown for 1,438 yards in his first season in charge of the Rebel offense.

Lott has spread the wealth around, as a trio of Rebel receivers have hauled in at least four touchdown passes. Erik Knaack leads G-R with 385 receiving yards and six TDs this season. Gage Murty is second on the team with 380 yards and five touchdown catches. Matt Roeding has 346 receiving and a pair of TDs. Walker Thede has accounted for 297 yards and four touchdowns.

Every Rebel that gets his hands on the football has shown big-play ability. Seth Gretillat’s only catch of the season went for 73 yards and a touchdown against North Tama in Week 3. It’s was G-R’s lone touchdown through the air that night. Olson said with as many weapons that have emerged in the passing game, it makes it easy to spread the ball around to whoever is open.

“We have receivers all across the board that can make a play,” Lott said. “All of our receivers can take it the distance. We have guys like Matt Roeding who can go up and get it. Receivers like Thede and Knaack who can take a screen and go 90 yards for a touchdown.”

That’s not to say the run game hasn’t contributed to the Rebel success. It’s actually quite the opposite where it’s been several players that have made of that part of the offense rather than one guy totaling the majority of the yards as in years past. The Rebels have run for 2,000 yards in 2016.

Parker Bown leads the Rebels with 747 yards on the ground, averaging 6.0 yards a carry, and has found the end zone 13 times. Bown hasn’t played the tailback position since his freshman year. Josh Peterson is behind Bown with 353 yards and seven scores. Lott from his signalcaller position has 299 yards and four touchdowns, while Murty (193 yards, 2 TDs) and Thede (187 yards, 3 TDs) have also found paydirt for the Rebels.

“It’s making sure the kids understand everybody’s role,” Olson said. “We all accept what we are. We all accept what we do.

“We just have guys who want to be around a successful program. Been lucky and fortunate to win, which makes it more exciting. Everybody just accepts their roles. I think we make football fun, and winning helps that out.”

State Football Playoffs

Semifinals

Thursday, Nov. 10

8-MAN

Don Bosco 72, Midland, Wyoming 0

Harris-Lake Park 35, Fremont-Mills 21

CLASS 3A

Webster City 6, Glenwood 3

Pella 34, Cedar Rapids Xavier 30

Friday, Nov. 11

CLASS A

St. Ansgar (11-0) vs. Gladbrook-Reinbeck (11-0), 10:06 a.m.

Council Bluffs St. Albert (11-0) vs. Bishop Garrigan (11-0), 1:06 p.m.

CLASS 4A

Ankeny Centennial (10-1) vs. Dowling Catholic (10-1), 4:06 p.m.

Cedar Rapids Washington (10-1) vs. Iowa City West (9-2), 7:06 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 12

CLASS 1A

Denver (11-0) vs. Iowa City Regina (10-1), 10:06 a.m.

Western Christian (10-1) vs. Van Meter (11-0), 1:06 p.m.

CLASS 2A

Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (10-1) vs. Dike-New Hartford (9-2), 4:06 p.m.

Union (10-1) vs. Mount Vernon (9-2), 7:06 p.m.

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Championships

Thursday, Nov. 17

8-MAN: Don Bosco (11-1) vs. Harris-Lake Park (12-0), 10:06 a.m.

3A: Pella (12-0) vs. Webster City (11-1), 7:06 p.m.