When Chad Klein was promoted from assistant to head coach at Carroll Kuemper, he looked around at other football programs, trying to glean some things from schools with similar personnel.
He took a long look at Spirit Lake.
Klein will get an even closer look Saturday, as his fourth-rated Knights (12-0) meet No. 5 Spirit Lake (11-1) in a 4:06 p.m. Class 2-A state semifinal at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Klein said Kuemper “modeled” its offense after Spirit Lake’s balanced attack, which was good enough to finish second in Class 2-A last season.
“They’re a little more run-based, and we’re slightly more pass,” Klein said. “Otherwise, we run a lot of the same formations, a lot of the same plays.”
Both offenses place heavy responsibility on the quarterback, and both teams have good ones. Kuemper junior Cole Neary and Spirit Lake senior Paul Brown rank third and fourth, respectively, in 2-A in pass efficiency, both just over the 176 mark.
The 6-foot-6, 200-pound Neary has thrown for 2,131 yards and 27 touchdowns with four interceptions, while the 5-10, 190-pound Brown has passed for 1,373 yards and 20 scores with seven picks. Both are completing more than 60 percent of their attempts.
Both teams also have 1,000-yard rushers: Kuemper with 5-10, 145-pound junior Chase Rupiper (160 carries, 1,097 yards, 18 TDs) and the Indians with 6-2, 217-pound senior Cody Poock (127 carries, 1,003 yards, 15 TDs).
“They look a lot like us,” Klein said.
Spirit Lake’s home field now has artificial turf, so the Indians will be right at home indoors. But Klein is excited to see his team perform on the fast track at the UNI-Dome.
“They fly to the ball,” he said. “But I want to see us get on the turf and see how fast we really are.”
Regardless, it should be a memorable week for the Knights. They join Sioux City Heelan and Council Bluffs St. Albert as western Iowa schools with teams in the football semifinals and state volleyball tournament.
“It’s a great week to be a Knight,” Klein said. “We have a great fan base and our community is very supportive.”
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