District lead at stake in Osky-Pella gridiron battle
By JIM GRIES Herald sports editor
Every time Oskaloosa and Pella meet on the football field, one thing is certain — it will be a tough, intense battle.
Of course, when the teams are battling for the top spot in the district, that intensity will be multiplied several times.
Such will be the case Friday night when the third-ranked Dutch (7-0, 4-0) invade Lacey Complex Stadium for a Class 3A, District 8 showdown with the Indians (5-2, 4-0) on Senior Night.
It will be the final regular-season home appearance for senior players Nick Rutledge, Andrew Landgrebe, Drea Lamb, Jesse VanDalen, Spencer Medlin, Nick Waters, Jeremy Schneider, Cody Bossard, Mason Wisse, Zach Mateer, Blake Hols, Hunter Simmons, Brett Kindley, Joe VerSteegh, Trevor Mabee, Stephen Shannon, Ryder Curtis, managers Bridgette Richards, Colleen Hanna and cheerleaders Taylor Boyle, Sarah Overbergen, Sydney Spry, Katelyn Shannon, Kaitlyn Pearson, Zoe Kminek and Jana Hansen.
Oskaloosa coach Mike Sterner said the Indians are ready to put out their best effort of the season against their rivals.
“Our kids have put in two good days of practice,” he said. “We are excited and focused to give our best effort and support our seniors in their Senior Night. We are excited to invite Pella in for a great game.”
Both teams are coming into the contest on a roll as Oskaloosa has been victorious in the last five outings while Pella is perfect on the season.
Don’t expect many balls to be in the air, except probably on kicks.
The Indians are averaging a little more than 42 points a game while the Dutch score nearly 32 points per contest.
If there is one aspect of the offensive attack that both teams do well, its running the ball their opponents’ throats.
They possess the top two rushing attacks in the district with Oskaloosa leading by a wide margin over Pella.
The Indians have rushed for 2,487 yards on the ground with 40 total touchdowns while the Dutch have picked up 1,875 yards running the ball and have gone to the end zone 27 times total on the season.
Landgrebe continues to be the top rusher in the district with 1,365 yards and 21 TDs while Pella has the No. 3 and No. 5 ground gainers in the district. Noah Clayberg has rushed the ball for 658 yards and eight scores while Nathan Henry has 525 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. Wisse has scored four touchdowns and has added 349 yards rushing to the Oskaloosa ground game.
Throwing the ball has been a passing thought for the two squads as they’ve combined to put the ball in the air a total of 154 times thus far this season.
Clayberg has passed 56 times, completing 28 of them for 372 yards and three touchdowns while Trevor Argo and Austin Schulte also have throw passes for the Dutch.
VanDalen has thrown 52 of Oskaloosa’s 57 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Sterner and T.J. Boyle have thrown the other five passes.
Defense may be the deciding factor in the outcome of the game and the Dutch own a better unit than the Indians.
Pella has allowed just 10.1 points a game this season while Oskaloosa has given up almost 32 points a game to its opponents.
Still, the Indians have been solid in forcing turnovers against their opponents.
They’ve recovered every one of the 11 fumbles they have forced with Riley Coniglio leading the district with four recoveries, including a 68-yard touchdown return last week against Winterset. Curtis has two recoveries while Rutledge has a team-high four interceptions, which is also tied for the district lead. Ki-Jana DeJong is close behind with two picks while Jared Pace has the other interception for Oskaloosa.
Pella has had 12 takeaways this year with nine being interceptions. Will Warner and Quinton Murphy both have recorded two interceptions while Mason Van Gorp has a team-best two fumble recoveries.
Wisse is among the best tacklers in the district with 101 stops on the year, good for second place. Conigilo is second on the team with 58 tackles while Nathan Clayberg tops Pella with 51 tackles.”They have a very solid defense. They are disciplined and good tacklers,” Sterner said. “Offensively they are very explosive. Their backs, including their QB, are all very talented and fast runners. They also have a very solid kicker who constantly puts them in the end zone and they are very willing to kick field goals in many parts of the field.”