Leadership and focus propel Blackhawks to state semifinal
The Hinton Blackhawks have been hungry for a trip to the UNI-Dome for years, but that doesn't mean they are treating this Friday's Class A State Semifinal game as a celebration.
This is a business trip, Hinton coach Bruce Held said.
The business: play the absolute best football they can.
"This group of kids has been very focused all year long," Held said.
In fact, that focus goes back to when they suited up in black and yellow for the first time, Coach Steve Diediker said.
"Our kids are happy to be able to play in the Dome," he said. "It has been a goal every since they started playing football."
Nine seniors lead the Blackhawks.
Held described them as "hungry and focused" heading into Friday's matchup with No. 7 Logan-Magnolia.
"They all play important parts on our team and are playing like seniors," Diediker said.
Among those seniors is QB Morgan Wenzel, who has passed for 1,581 yards and rushed for 555 for the Blackhawks.
Also seniors are Dalton Becker, who has rushed 674 yards for 11 touchdowns and Jason Vander Kooi who has received 46 passes for a total of 934 yards and 11 touchdowns.
And that's just a first look at the Hinton roster.
"We have a diversified offense that can pass or run," Held said. "We have an excellent offensive line that can protect our QB. We have a QB that can create and make plays that aren't designed. We have tall receivers on the outside that can go up and get a jump ball pass. We are playing our best defense of the year right now."
The Blackhawks are also healthy as they have been since week 7, he added.
Not only will this be the Blackhawks' first-ever trip to the Dome, but this will also be the first time Hinton (9-3) meets up with Lo-Ma (11-1) on the gridiron.
That fact doesn't have the co-head coaches worried.
Lo-Ma focuses heavily on running the ball, passing it only 497 yards in their 12 games and carrying it for more than 4,100 yards.
Diediker said Hinton's tough district schedule has been a training ground to take on the Panthers Friday.
"West Lyon is just one team in our district that has a very strong running game and we faced them twice," he said.
"Playing good running teams like West Lyon, Akron-Westfield, and Lawton-Bronson in district play have prepared us," he said. "It doesn't get much better than those teams as far as running the ball."
Lo-Ma runs the wishbone offense, and although Hinton hasn't faced the wishbone yet this year, facing those heavy-running teams has been good preparation, Diediker said.
Held said the team has been watching film and tweaking to take advantage of the Panthers' strategies.
"We are adding a few things for this week that they haven't seen, which we do every week," he said. "The playbook is getting pretty thick this time of year."
Diediker said the Blackhawks are still practicing and playing with the kind of focus that brought them this far in post-season play.
"Our kids have done a tremendous job of preparing for each game this year and we are seeing the same type of preparation this week," he said. "It has been a great year and we are not ready to see it end."
When the Hinton team steps onto the UNI-Dome field Friday, they'll make history for the school.
Held said this team is part of Hinton's living legacy.
"We are playing for all the former Blackhawk football players that never got this chance, for whatever reason," he said. "Some teams were just as deserving, but the bounce of the ball or an injury or two stopped them from getting here.
"All their hard work in the past has gotten us to this point this week," Held said. "We are proud to play for them all."
Hinton takes on Lo-Ma at 1:06 p.m. Friday at the UNI-Dome.
The game will be shown for free online live at