Warriors ready for playoff challenge
ARMSTRONG — While North Union may be the underdog in Friday’s playoff game against West Fork, the Warriors are ready to go for another week.
North Union enters the game with a 1-6 record, but have played in several close games this season.
West Fork enters the postseason with a 4-2 record with losses to Saint Ansgar (54-21 on Sept. 18) and Lake Mills (49-12 on Oct. 2).
The two teams have one opponent in common having both played Newman Catholic of Mason City.
North Union lost its season opener to the Knights 35-26 while West Fork defeated Newman Catholic 35-6 in Week 3.
North Union coach Matt Ernster says his squad has come a long way this season especially in the running game.
“Having a 1,000 yard rusher is a big accomplishment for us,” he said.
Ernster is speaking of senior running back Ryan Lang, who has rushed for 1,065 yards and 15 touchdowns on 154 carries.
Lang has had three games with over 200 rushing yards and West Hancock was the only team able to keep him completely in check. Lang had 103 rushing yards in last week’s 29-6 loss to Alta-Aurelia.
The past two weeks, junior Aidan Fries has set up behind center as sophomore Carter Morphew has worked his way back from an injury.
“We expect Carter to be back,” said Ernster. “We are very comfortable with Aidan though, if necessary.”
Morphew is 38-of-73 passing for 544 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Fries is 16-of-32 for 201 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Morphew also has rushed for 203 yards on 43 carries.
Fries was Morphew’s top target and has 13 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Bryer Prochniak is the Warriors’ leading receiver with 21 catches for 354 yards. Colten Neusch and Logan Odegaard each have six catches while Izaak Martens has five and Lang has three.
Ernster said West Fork has a pretty good defensive line up front.
“We need to establish the run early and mix short passes with some big shots,” he said. “We feel that we can be successful on offense this week.”
Meanwhile North Union’s defense will need to be ready for both the run and pass.
“They’re pass heavy, quarterback-run heavy, and explosive,” said Ernster. “Very challenging. We will need to play extremely well.”
West Fork quarterback Kayden Ames has had a successful season, completing 54-of-105 passes for 1,091 yards with 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Ames is also the team’s leading rusher with 528 yards and six touchdowns on 111 carries. His top receiver is Ben Heimer, who has 19 catches for 521 yards and eight touchdowns. Kellen Cameron has 13 catches for 227 yards, but seven other players have caught at least one pass.
West Fork and North Union have met on the field twice, both in the last two seasons. West Fork won 13-12 in 2019 and 46-38 in 2018.