LAST YEAR –– Host Madrid was in control throughout the contest en route to a 42-6 victory. Michael Santi was a one-man wrecking crew, rushing for four touchdowns and 175 yards on 12 carries while also grabbing a 43-yard scoring pass and added an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as well. The Tigers ran 45 times for 376 yards, while the Hawks were held to just 36 rush yards on 30 carries, with Brendan Bird 5-of-13 for 41 yards passing.
ABOUT THE HAWKS — W-G finished 4-5 last year and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker. The team rushed 396 times for 1,539 yards while connecting on 37-of-88 passes for 461 yards. Junior Brendan Bird returns at quarterback after finishing 34-of-83 for 433 yards and two TDs last year while tossing five interceptions. Tight end Logan Canova, who had five catches for 45 yards, is the top leading receiver returning.
The big weapon is senior tailback Tanner Vermaas, who ran 244 times for 1,129 yards and 11 scores. Payton Tague (17-132) and Josh Saak (28-105, 2 TDs) had a limited role in the ground attack.
The defense intercepted just two passes but came away with 19 fumbles by the opposition. Austin Scharlau had 57 tackles, Vermaas 50 and Saak 45.
ABOUT THE TIGERS — All-State back Santi is about as good as they come and has made the most of the open running lanes Madrid’s wishbone attack often creates. He carried 205 times for 2,263 yards and 28 TDs in 2015 and turned six catches into 205 yards and two scores.
Wyatt Smith should not be overlooked, as he amassed 795 yards on 158 rushes while stepping into the end zone 11 times.
Aaron Sperling is the likely choice at quarterback. In the Tiger offense the ball is rarely thrown, with Sperling 12-of-38 from 315 yards and three TDs.
The defense had 11 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles. Sperling and Bryce Dean each had 32 stops last year and are the top returning tacklers.
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