GLADBROOK - The Gladbrook-Reinbeck defense had surrendered just 32 yards of total offense and only two first downs to South Hamilton in the first half.
But the scoreboard told an entirely different story.
The Rebels went into halftime down 7-0 in their Class 1A District 4 football clash, but used another second-half comeback to down South Hamilton 22-7 on Friday night at The Pit.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Colby Luethje (11) breaks through the arm tackle of South Hamilton defender John Hegland (83) on his way to a 28-yard touchdown run during the fourth quarter of Friday’s Class 1A District 4 football game in Gladbrook.
Photo by Ross Thede
Chase Clark rushed for 80 of his career-high 81 yards in the second half, Colby Luethje had 56 of his season-best 86 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and Gladbrook-Reinbeck's offensive line cleared enough room for the Rebels to get back on track after last week's shutout loss to No. 3 Woodward-Granger.
"We worked hard but we didn't finish any of our blocks," said G-R head coach John Olson. "We got after them at halftime and in the second half they responded real well. We just told them 7-0 is not going to cut it. South Hamilton's a well-coached team, they're a very good defense, but we made some small adjustments to run to where they're not going and take what we can get."
Neither team got much in the first half. Gladbrook-Reinbeck (4-1, 2-1) managed only 89 yards of total offense in the first half, once reaching the red zone before penalties backed them out of striking distance.
It was a theme to the Rebels' evening. But once the penalties were eliminated, South Hamilton (2-3, 2-1) had a harder time stopping the G-R attack.
The Rebels opened the second half with a 15-play drive that managed just 45 yards. It was kept alive by South Hamilton's first penalty but stunted by five more flags on the home team. The visiting Hawks could do nothing with the ball and punted it right back to the Rebels, who marched 47 yards on eight plays and finished their first scoring drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Parker Bolt to Brady Billerbeck on fourth-and-3.
Bolt then kept the snap on the swinging gate extra-point play, running over a Hawk defender at the goal line to convert the run for an 8-7 Rebel edge.
Another three-and-out for the Hawks followed - there were eight of them - and G-R took control from there.
Turning to its jumbo formation known as the 'fat package,' the Rebels lined their starting fullback Luethje behind tight end Brady Billerbeck in the I-formation, handed the ball off and watched good things happen from there.
Luethje scored on a bruising 28-yard touchdown to make it 15-7 Rebels with 3:18 to play. Bolt then intercepted a Matt Hislop pass and returned it inside the 10, and Luethje followed Billerbeck into the end zone again.
"We couldn't run the ball at all (in the first half)," said Luethje. "We came out and established the run in the second half, that's what we wanted to do against Woodward-Granger, but we wanted to prove we could run the ball tonight.
"It's pretty nice running behind Brady, and (South Hamilton) must have been a little gassed in the end. Our linemen really took care of business."
The line overcame its slow and oft-penalized start to help Gladbrook-Reinbeck gain 171 yards rushing and 172 more through the air. Bolt finished 13-for-26 for 167 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, with Cobren Bird hauling in six receptions for 81 yards.
Clark came into the game with 15 carries for 64 yards, but more than doubled those totals with 16 rushes for 81 yards. Starting tailback Ryan Strohbehn was sidelined by an apparent ankle injury when he was hit and stripped of the ball by South Hamilton's Max McGonigle.
McGonigle, a defensive tackle, took the fumble back 14 yards for the Hawks' only points. It came with 51 seconds left in what had been a punchless and scoreless first half.
"We just came out with drive and ended up doing what we're supposed to do - win," said Clark, a sophomore, of the second half. "We had too many penalties. We've still got stuff to work on but this should fire us up for the next game."
The Rebel defense should be equally excited about its performance. South Hamilton finished with just 6 total yards of offense after rushing 33 times for minus-7 yards. The Hawks completed just one pass. Billerbeck led the way with 10 tackles and Luethje had seven - including four for loss.
"It's close," Olson said of District 4. "Woodward-Granger has beaten everybody they've played, so they're the top team, but we're going to be fighting for it.
"But we're not a good enough team to think we can go to BCLUW (next Friday) and name a score, I don't care what their record is. We've just got to play."