MONDAMIN, Iowa — One team led the state championship game 61-0 at halftime just two years ago.
The other has never even played in a playoff game in the roughly 35 years of playoff football that it's fielded its own program.
But West Harrison, the school without its own playoff banner, appears intent on making some history this fall. The Hawkeyes battered 2011 Eight-Man state champ Fremont-Mills 62-12 in the non-district season opener for both schools Friday.
Seniors Tyler Birdsall and Jake Roden scored four touchdowns apiece as the Hawkeyes rolled up a 55-12 lead in less than a quarter and a half.
“We're trying to change what West Harrison's been like,'' Roden said. “It's our senior year. I think it would be great to go to the playoffs.''
Even though Fremont-Mills is just two years removed from its 81-0 title-game win over Murray, none of the big names from that team are around. The Knights, fifth in The World-Herald's preseason ratings, lost six fumbles Friday.
“I think we learned that there's another level of play that we've got to get to,'' Fremont-Mills coach Jeremy Christiansen said. “I think some of our kids thought we were at that level. Now we know that we've got some work to do.''
West Harrison rolled up 351 of its 406 total yards in the first half. The Hawkeyes scored on their first eight possessions and triggered the continuous clock at the 8:30 mark of the second quarter. Birdsall's fourth touchdown run, covering 37 yards, made it 48-12. In Eight-Man play, any time the margin reaches at least 35 points after the first quarter, the clock runs continuously.
The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Roden pounded the middle of the Knights' defense for 80 yards on nine carries. That opened the edge for the 5-10, 171-pound Birdsall in the Hawkeyes' pistol offense. Birdsall carried six times for 159 yards, including touchdown runs of 36, 65, 1 and 37 yards.
On the play immediately before Birdsall's fourth TD run, he recovered an onside kick. He also boomed a 65-yard punt.
“With the young people that we have, we talked about the potential we had if everybody just put in the work in the offseason,'' Birdsall said. “People did that, and the scoreboard kind of showed it.”
Craig Birdsall, Tyler's father and the West Harrison coach, was pleased with his team's sense of purpose in the opener. The Hawkeyes returned seven offensive and six defensive starters.
“I didn't expect it that lopsided,'' he said. “I thought us coming out with a veteran group, that we would win. I knew if our defense played well, we'd be OK.''
West Harrison, which was 5-4 last season and just missed the playoffs, held Fremont-Mills to 152 total yards.
Tyler Birdsall knows it's still August. But the Hawkeyes believe they can make the postseason.
“It's been one of our main motivations,'' he said. “Our overall goal is to be able to host a playoff game.''
Fremont-Mills (0-1) .................................. 12 0 0 0—12
At West Harrison (1-0) ............................ 27 28 7 0—62
WH: Trey Kirlin 1 run (kick failed)
WH: Tyler Birdsall 36 run (Jake Roden run)
WH: Roden 26 pass from Kirlin (Brandon Barnett kick)
FM: Broc Hansen 31 pass from Jason Rusten (run failed)
WH: Birdsall 65 run (kick blocked)
FM: Spencer Phillips 1 run (kick blocked)
WH: Birdsall 1 run (Barnett kick)
WH: Roden 8 run (Barnett kick)
WH: Birdsall 37 run (Barnett kick)
WH: Roden 15 run (Barnett kick)
WH: Roden 23 run (Barnett kick)