Despite an unbeaten start, the one thing the Wall Eagles hadn’t done well this season was come out of the gates in a hurry.
On Friday in Hill City, they broke downs those gates, running past the Rangers 61-8 in a game that ended in the third quarter because of the 50-point mercy rule.
Hill City fumbled on its first two plays on offense and the Eagles capitalized, scoring two touchdowns on their first three plays. Wall would take a 34-0 lead into the second quarter and a 48-8 advantage into the halftime break.
“Recently in our games, we haven’t been getting the start that we have wanted; it was one of the things we really wanted to focus on,” Wall senior running back Trey Elshere said. “In this game, getting out there right away and making some plays, we made it happen tonight.”
After a Ranger fumble on their own 20 to start the game, Elshere scored on a 16-yard TD run. Cooper McConaghy did the same thing two plays into the next drive that was set up by the Hill City fumble, this time from 26 yards.
Less than two minutes had ticked off of the game clock.
“Our boys were ready, they were fired up,” Wall coach Lex Heathershaw said. “Hill City was 2-0 and the guys came in with the mindset that they were a good team. We just had to get things done. The boys played really well; I am proud of them.”
Hill City, which opened with two lop-sided wins against Newell and Edgemont, had the tables turned on them by the 4-0 Eagles.
“You can’t beat a team like that when you have turnovers,” Hill City coach Chad Ronish said. “That was our number one goal, ball control. We did everything but that in the first half. We gave them good field position, and like a good team, they are going to make you pay for it.”
Wall quarterback Jacob Bielmaier found Damion Breese from 20 yards out on their next position, followed by a 23-yard touchdown run by No. 23, Bradan McDonnell. With 54 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Tate Eisenbraun scored from 2 yards out to make it 34-0.
“We started off strong with the defensive turnover. Right from the get-go we wanted to try some motion and get their defense off-set, run it the opposite way,” Bielmaier said. “It worked great. We had enough blockers to account for everyone on defense. It opened it up great.”
The Eagles had a chance to end the game in the second quarter, scoring on a 50-yard TD run by McConaghy and a 23-yard run by Laeton Anderson. But the Eagles missed on their 2-point run that would have ended the game.
Hill City took advantage and got on the board on a nifty 68-yard TD sprint by Noah Krull with 6:23 remaining in the second.
With the running clock in the second half, Wall scored on a pair of TD runs by Tack Tines — from 32 yards and the game-ender from 70 yards with 2:30 left in the third.
Those two runs actually enabled Tines to lead all rushers with 108 yards on four carries. As a team, the Eagles ran for 484 yards, with the first-team offense playing just midway into the second quarter.
“We try to get our run game going as much as possible,” said Elshere, who had 74 yards on nine carries. “That just opens up the pass so much more.”
Bielmaier added 70 yards on five rushes and he was also 3-of-4 passing for 65 yards.
Bielmaier said their triple threat offense is tough to cover. It opens up options and the mind of the defense that plays against the Eagle offense.
“We have limitless options with the speed on our team and the talent we have from our wide receivers and running backs. Our run game opens up our pass game and our pass game opens up our run game,” he said.
Heathershaw said he was also impressed with his reserves.
“Any team is only as good as their number twos. We tell our guys that,” he said. “They have been doing a really good job in practice and they deserved to get out there and get some reps. Overall, it was a really good team win.”
Wall, 4-0, made it into the state 9B playoffs last season, and Heathershaw, the former Eagle in his first year as head coach, said they want to go further into the playoffs.
“The goal always is to get to the last game of the season,” Heathershaw said. “We’re going to take it game-by-game. Next week we have the bye week and then we have Kadoka coming to Wall. We’ll take it step-by-step. We think we can make a push into the playoffs. Our guys are really buying into the new system. The nice thing is they all are working well together and they have a lot of chemistry.”
Krull led the Rangers with 78 yards on six rushes. As a team, they had just 39 more yards. Quarterback Sam Edwards was 3-of-10 passing for 40 yards.
The game was a learning experience for the Rangers, albeit a tough learning experience, Ronish said.
“You have to look yourself in the mirror and come back and do it next week,” Ronish said. “A lot of times I think this is where these kids become men because they are able to say, ‘I can do this again.’ They show up and have a great attitude and we go after them next week.”
Wall hosts Kadoka Area in two weeks, while Hill City returns to action Friday at home against Lyman.