Christensen, Rouse star as Ballard makes its final playoff case with 49-0 victory at Gilbert
The Ballard football team made a strong case for the playoffs with a 49-0 victory at Gilbert on Friday.
Gabe Christensen ran for 205 yards, Elie Rouse scored four touchdowns, Nick Wacha returned a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown and the Bomber defense was stout all game. Ballard ended the regular season at 5-4 and finished 3-2 in Class 3A District 2, good enough for third place in the district.
Gilbert ended its season at 0-9 overall and 0-5 in 3A District 2.
Despite going without a victory, the Tigers were competitive in several games against one of the toughest schedules in the entire state. Entering the Ballard game, the Tigers' previous eight opponents had a combined record of 46-19.
Here is what we learned from Ballard's decisive victory:
No quarterback, no problem
With starting quarterback Ashton Hermann and backup Luke Hartsook out of action, Ballard was content with letting Rouse take the snaps behind center.
It was mostly a Wildcat look on offense for most of the night. Rouse ran for 168 yards and Christensen's big night also took a lot of pressure off him.
"It was just battling through adversity after Ashton got hurt," Rouse said. "I learned a lot from Gabe — just hitting the hole hard and continuing to keep your feet going."
The Bombers ran for 375 yards as a team.
"Eli and I just follow the linemen," Christensen said. "You've got to give credit where credit is due: The linemen, tight end and our heavy backs do a great job blocking. It's not possible without them."
Ballard defense dominates
Ballard made life miserable for Gilbert's struggling offense.
The Bombers limited the Tigers to 30 total yards. Ballard had one sack.
"It feels great," Ballard linebacker Nick Wacha said. "Our team really progressed over the season. The whole team stepped up."
Wacha led the way with nine tackles, one sack and a fumble returned 44 yards for a touchdown. Christensen chipped in four tackles and a fumble recovery and Chance Lande added an interception.
Gilbert defense hangs tough
Gilbert gave up a couple of big runs to Rouse, including a 57-yard touchdown scamper on fourth down in the first quarter and a 30-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
But the Tigers held their own most of the night. Gilbert had two fumble recoveries and Spencer Clatt came through with an interception.
Tiger head coach Graham Lundt said he was pleased with the fight his team put up all season against constant adversity.
"Our schedule's combined record has to be the hardest ever for the RPI," Lundt said. "We played an elite schedule and we competed against the elite. Algona, the first half against Humboldt — we got to see what high level looks like. I look at it as a blessing to have such a challenging schedule. We got to see what we needed to do to get to the next level."
Bombers await playoff selections
Ballard entered the final week of the regular season ranked 17th in the IHSAA 3A RPI rankings. The champion and runner-up from each district automatically qualify for state and final four teams are chosen based on the RPI rankings.
With 3A District 2 having No. 4 Humboldt and No. 6 Nevada along with an Algona team ranked most of the season, Ballard should have a chance at qualifying. Ballard also faced ranked 4A power Bondurant-Farrar and a tough Adel-Desoto-Minburn team outside the district.
"That's up to the state," Ballard co-head coach Kyle Howard said. "We had to control what we could control and that was get a win tonight. Hopefully, we get some good news tomorrow."
Ballard 49, Gilbert 0
Ballard 7 21 7 14 — 49
Gilbert 0 0 0 0 — 0
Individual statistical leaders
Rushing: Ballard — Gabe Christensen 15-205. Gilbert — Wil Jennings 8-37.
Passing: Ballard — Rouse 1-3-1-8. Gilbert — Owen Kautman 6-11-0-33.
Receiving: Ballard — Caden Miller 1-8. Gilbert — Birk Hanson 5-27.