GARWIN - There are six offensive linemen from North Tama who should be well-fed in the coming days.
Dylan Youel owes them all dinner.
North Tama's senior tailback amassed 228 yards rushing and five touchdowns as the top-ranked Redhawks held off an early challenge from GMG for a 50-12 victory in Class A District 6 football here Friday night.
The Redhawks (7-0, 4-0) remained as one of five undefeated teams in the state by taking GMG's best shot and countering with authority. Youel was the lead representative, piling up four first-half touchdowns and another on the opening possession of the third quarter.
The offensive line - consisting of Grant Vesely, Matt Popelka, Marshall Karr, Carston Calderwood, Tyler Zook and Jeremy Wrage - paved the way for 354 rushing yards on 40 attempts. Youel finished 23 yards shy of his career high (251), which he established in last year's 35-14 win over GMG in Traer.
"I've got to buy them all dinner because they had great blocking tonight and had real big holes for me to run through," said Youel. "Whenever it's cold we like to run the ball and we have a lot of weapons that we can run the ball with, so we knew we were going to run it a lot."
After allowing twice as many points as it had in the first six games, North Tama's opportunistic defense sealed the victory in the third period. Already leading 37-12 after Youel's fifth TD run, the Redhawk defense returned a pair of GMG turnovers for long touchdowns to seal the victory.
Lucas Hefty picked up a fumble and went 43 yards to the end zone, and James Weida's 90-yard interception return put the finishing touches on North Tama's lopsided triumph.
"With the senior class that we have, with such great leaders, it really hurts to look and be 2-5, but outside of this game I haven't felt like we've really been outmatched," said GMG second-year head coach Kyl Gillespie. "We've really been in every game."
The Wolverines (2-5, 1-3) were in this game too, and they even had the ball twice with the opportunity to tie it up. Youel capped North Tama's first two possessions with touchdown runs and was bidding for his third when the ball popped out shy of the goal line. GMG sophomore cornerback Chris Read scooped up the loose ball and raced 99 yards untouched the other way for the score.
"With a rivalry game you just never know what's going to happen, you really don't," said North Tama first-year head coach Brent Thoren. "It was one of those things where they came out and they were excited, they were really motivated to play us, and you get a big play like that early on and you give them a reason to play that much harder.
"That's exactly what they did, they came out and they really tried to take it to us. Credit our kids, we were up to the challenge and made some plays down the road and did what we needed to do."
Wolverine defensive end Will Worden intercepted an inside screen and gave his team great field position, but the GMG offense couldn't convert. Youel finished off an 11-play, 75-yard drive with this third touchdown and North Tama raced ahead 22-6.
GMG's 2-minute drill worked when Jacob Hlas found Read streaking up the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 22-12, but there was too much time left on the clock.
North Tama used most of the remaining 1:35, handing the ball to Youel five times to go 57 yards for a 30-12 halftime lead, and his 5-yard touchdown run 3:20 into the second half made it a four-possession game.
"That first drive (of the second half), for them to take the ball and go down and score, and the score right before the half, both of those stuck some daggers in the heart," Gillespie said. "They're a very good football team, but I can't fault our kids' effort one bit."
The Wolverines played their first full game without senior running back Wyatt Kaiser, who suffered a broken left leg in last week's loss to Montezuma. Junior Brody Fisher got the bulk of carries for GMG, finishing with 26 yards on 10 attempts before exiting in the second half with an injury of his own. Sophomore Blane Anderson added 17 yards down the stretch but the North Tama defense was just too tough.
"They did pretty good, we didn't get a couple calls we wanted to go our way but we fought back," said Youel. "GMG played a great game. They always put up a good fight when we play them because it's a rivalry."
Hlas finished 7-for-22 passing for 94 yards but with three interceptions - two by Weida. Read had 46 yards receiving and Austin Aldrich had three grabs for 25 yards.
North Tama's touted defense held GMG to 132 yards of total offense and only eight first downs.
Youel's 228 yards came at an 9.5 yard-per-carry clip, shy of last year's 25-for-251, one touchdown performance against GMG.
"We are very blessed to have a tremendous amount of athletes on our team and Dylan is just one of many, but tonight he was very good," said Thoren. "My offensive line was excellent tonight, but (Youel) makes a tremendous amount of yards for himself as well."
Colton Hamilton added 63 yards rushing and 37 receiving on a pair of shovel draws. Boerm had 56 yards rushing while going 7-for-15 passing for 73 yards with one interception.
The Redhawks have two home games to close out the regular season, starting next Friday night against Montezuma (4-3, 1-3). Fifth-ranked North Mahaska (7-0, 4-0) goes to Traer in Week 9.
"All year we've taken it week-by-week and I'm sure we'll continue to do that and just take it step by step, take on Montezuma and then go for North Mahaska," said Youel.
GMG's playoff hopes come down to a pair of must-win games, starting with next week's home finale against HLV. The Wolverines finish the regular season at BGM in Brooklyn.
"If we win both of them we get to three district wins and we could get fourth in the district," Gillespie said. "So we've got to take it one game at a time, but they're two must-win games."