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After the Hall football team rallied to beat St. Bede in Week 7 to all but guarantee itself a playoff berth, second-year Red Devils coach Randy Tieman pointed out to his team the raucous crowd and big-game atmosphere that night at Nesti Stadium before defensive coordinator Adam Meyer jumped in.
“If you think that was fun,” Meyer said in the post-game huddle, “just imagine what a home playoff game would be like.”
Nearly four weeks later, the Red Devils are about to find out.
After Hall won 20-7 at Bismarck-Henning in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, the Red Devils return home as No. 6-seeded Hall plays host to No. 7-seeded Momence at 2 p.m. Saturday in a Class 2A second-round playoff game.
“It was something we talked about, what it was like at Hall in the 1990s and the early 2000s, and how exciting it was during home playoff weeks,” Tieman said. “We felt that was something that we wanted these kids to experience, but they had to earn that winning in Bismarck last week and they did, so now they are going to reap the benefits of hopefully playing in front of a huge crowd.”
It’s the first home playoff game for Hall since it beat Paxton-Buckley-Loda in the first round of the 2006 Class 3A playoffs.
That game was also the last time Hall won a playoff game before last week’s win.
“Everyone was saying how awesome it would be to bring a playoff game home,” Hall senior Collin Aimone said. “That was definitely one of the goals.”
Hall (7-3) will welcome Momence (7-3), a team the Red Devils played in Week 2 of the 2010 season.
However, a lot has changed for both teams since then as neither Tieman nor Momence coach Matt Fox were coaching their squads at the time. Tieman watched the game as a fan and Fox coached at Reed-Custer.
Tieman said, however, Momence still runs similar stuff as it did four years ago.
The Redskins — who lost to Clifton Central in Week 9 but went back to Clifton Central and won 13-6 last week — are a run-pass threat. So far this season, junior quarterback Aaron Cantwell is 138-for-229 for 2,064 passing yards and 25 TDs, while junior running back Leanthony Reasnover has 179 carries for 1,240 yards and 11 TDs.
“We’ve had really good play out of our quarterback, but we’ve been able to run the ball pretty effectively this year with our predominantly-senior offensive line that has a lot of experience and starts,” Fox said. “They’ve worked well together for several years. Especially early (when we started 1-2), we kind of leaned on them.”
Hall enters the contest on a five-game winning streak. During the stretch, its offense has scored 35.4 points per game.
The Red Devil attack is led by senior quarterback Taggart Venegas (86-for-172 for 1,286 yards and 15 TDs) and Aimone (caught seven TDs, ran for four TDs), who is one of a slew of Red Devil running backs that includes senior Jacob Byczynski, senior Aaron Kerr, junior Tyler Taber and sophomore Chris Hammonds.
However, the key to Hall’s success has been the improved play of the defense, which has allowed an average of 18 points per game the last five weeks after it allowed 36 points per game the first five weeks.
“It really has stepped up,” Tieman said. “Last week our offense didn’t move the ball as well as we would’ve liked or as well as we have, but the defense made plays and that’s what it takes, a whole team effort.”
If Hall can repeat the effort this week, it would advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since its state title run in 2001, and if the Red Devils prevail on Saturday, Hall would play a quarterfinal game on the road regardless of the opponent.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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