BY: CONOR NICHOLL FOR KPREPS.COM
NEWTON – Hanover coach Matt Heuer has said learning his offense can be difficult. Wildcat senior quarterback Jacob Jueneman called picking up the scheme “complicated.”
Last season, Jueneman served as signal caller for an inexperienced team. He completed 76 of 133 passes for 1,521 yards with 22 scores against 11 interceptions. Hanover averaged 47 points and 8.1 yards per play, rare down numbers for the perennial power and offensive juggernaut. The Wildcats finished 10-2 and lost to rival Axtell in the state semifinals.
During the summer, Jueneman practiced a lot of quarterback drills, and especially worked on his footwork and getting the ball out quicker. He had team camp and spent time with Heuer’s brother, Dustin, the head coach at nearby Marysville. The team tries to play 7-on-7 as much as possible in the summer.
The work paid off as Jueneman made huge strides that culminated in a 46-24 victory against St. Francis in the Eight-Man, Division II state championship Saturday at Newton’s Fischer Field.
“It’s not easy,” Jueneman said. “Not anyone can do it. You have got to know what you are doing. You have got to pay attention, and most importantly, you have got to work. You have got to dedicate your life to him. You have got to go and work in the weight room, work at practice, and just keep pushing forward to be better.”
Hanover finished 11-0 and tallied 55.3 points per game. The Wildcats won every contest by at least 20 points. Hanover averaged 10.5 yards per play, a significant jump from ’19. Hanover enjoyed its bevy of offensive weapons and varied looks versus St. Francis.
“What’s crazy about this team is like every single game you knew that somebody was going to have multiple touchdowns, or somebody was going to have a big game,” Heuer said.
Heuer, long known as an offensive mastermind, improved to 161-27 in 16 seasons at his alma mater. He is 6-3 all-time in state championship games.
“It can be overwhelming at first,” junior Emmitt Jueneman said of Hanover’s offense. “Like last year, we had a bunch of first-time players, so it was a little bit overwhelming our first couple games. And once you start getting the routine of it, you start to understand it more and more. So it starts to get easier as you get more experienced.”
Heuer tied Hanston’s Jerry Slaton for the most all-time titles by a Kansas eight-man coach, according to KSHSAA archives. Hanover won in ’16, ’17 and ’18, though none of the current players had been impactful on a previous title team.
“It’s great,” Jacob Jueneman said. “We have been working for this for so long. It’s finally paid off. This is what we have been working for – sixth grade year going to the weight room – this is what we have been waiting for, and it paid off today.”
St. Francis finished 11-1 and moved to 0-3 all-time in state finales. The Indians have lost in ’16, ’19 and ’20 in state games. Coach Nick Fawcett has only three losses in his three seasons. St. Francis built a 12-0 lead early before Hanover exploded for 30 second quarter points. St. Francis committed four turnovers in the second quarter.
“I am extremely impressed and pleased with the way that our boys not only handled today and coming back from 12-0 deficit, but how they’ve been resilient throughout the whole course of the year with COVID and everything like that,” Heuer said.
With 10:04 left in the first half, Hanover stopped St. Francis senior running back Shadryon Blanka on 4th-and-1 from the Indian 33-yard line. Momentum shifted, and the Wildcats scored their first touchdown six plays later on a five-yard run from Jacob Jueneman. Blanka recorded 32 carries for 230 yards and two TDs. He cleared 2,200 rushing yards this fall.
“When they stop us doing what we kind of hang our hat on, fourth and 1, and we don’t get it, they were just the better team today, so I give them all the credit in the world,” Fawcett said.
St. Francis is well-known for its size and pass rush, though Hanover consistently threw short passes in the flat that yielded broken tackles and long runs after the catch.
“It’s get the ball out as fast as you can,” Jacob Jueneman said. “Sometimes you don’t even get lucky enough to have the laces. It’s just they were playing off so far, you’ve got to just throw it right away, and hope our skill players can make a move and get to the end zone.”
Jueneman finished 16 of 25 for 170 yards and four passing scores, along with a rushing TD. Emmitt Jueneman delivered six catches for 125 yards and two TDs. His first catch was an 11-yarder that came on the first play after the 4th-and-1 stop.
“It was just a read for our quarterback,” Emmitt said. “If the linebacker shoots up – and hit me. If he doesn’t, then hit the deep route.”
Senior Colin Jueneman had 120 offensive yards and scored twice. Senior Tyler Bonser returned a kickoff for a score.
“They just have a lot of athletes,” Fawcett said. “They did a good job of getting their athletes in space, and maybe we as a staff didn’t have our kids prepared enough to handle that, and I think that was probably the difference in the game.”
For the season, Jueneman completed 72 of 101 passes for 1,281 yards with 23 touchdowns against two interceptions. He has followed a long line of Hanover quarterbacks, such as Andrew and Will Bruna and Daiken Stallbaumer, to improve throughout a career and put up big numbers.
“You read the linebackers for the most part,” Jacob said. “Sometimes it’s the d-ends, but the linebackers pretty much tell you where you are going to throw the ball.”
Jacob’s first touchdown pass gave Hanover a 14-12 lead with 5:13 left in the first half. He found Emmitt Jueneman for a 38-yard pass in one-on-one coverage. Then, he tossed two quick passes in the flat to Colin Jueneman, who scored from 15 and 13 yards out. Both scores came in the final 2:11 of the first half.
“It’s safe, and it’s actually designed to get us a few yards,” Heuer said. “Get an athlete in space and every once in a while, you get lucky, and you hit it, and we hit.”
Emmitt believed the quick pass could be a key play – it just hinges on the St. Francis defense.
“Depends on where their safety is playing,” Emmitt said. “If he’s playing deep back – then hit me.”
Emmitt opened the second half on a similar play when he took a short pass and raced 40 yards for a score.
Hanover led 38-12 just 20 seconds into the third quarter.
“It feels amazing,” Emmitt said. “It was nice winning it, it would have been my freshman year, but it feels so better knowing that you worked for it over three and four months.”
Hanover 46, St. Francis 24
Hanover (11-0): 0 – 30 – 16 – 0 | 46
St. Francis (11-1): 12 – 0 – 12 – 0 | 24
SF — Blanka 65 run (run failed), 11:51 (SF 6-0)
SF — Krien 7 run (run failed), 1:20 (SF 12-0)
Han. — J.Jueneman 7 run (Dimler pass from J.Jueneman), 6:47 (SF 12-8)
Han. — E.Juneman 38 pass from J.Jueneman (Dimler pass from J.Jueneman), 5:13 (Han 16-12)
Han. — C.Jueneman 14 pass from J.Jueneman (pass failed), 2:11 (Han 22-12)
Han. — C.Jueneman 13 pass from J.Jueneman (C.Jueneman pass from J.Jueneman), 0:09 (Han 30-12)
Han. — E.Jueneman 40 pass from J.Jueneman (C.Jueneman pass from J.Jueneman), 11:45 (Han 38-12)
SF — Krien 17 run (run failed), 5:32 (Han 38-18)
Han. — Bonser 49 kickoff return (E.Jueneman pass from C.Jueneman), 5:22 (Han 46-18)
SF — Blanka 53 run (pass failed), 4:38 (Han 46-24)
Hanover – J.Jueneman 10-(-23), Bonser 3-10, C.Jueneman 6-36.
St. Francis – Blanka 32-226, Busse 7-46, Krien 14-46.
Hanover – J.Jueneman 18-26-0-171, C.Jueneman 0-1-0-0.
St. Francis – Busse 7-13-3-60, Blanka 0-1-1-0.
Hanover – C.Jueneman 10-49, E.Jueneman 7-110, Bonser 4-12.
St. Francis – Blanka 5-24, Krien 1-10, Baxter 1-26.