Top-ranked Harlan knocks off Nevada in 3A quarterfinals: What we learned from gutsy Cub effort

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

HARLAN — Nevada gave all it had defensively against No. 1 Harlan in the Class 3A quarterfinals of the state football playoffs on Friday.

But the Cubs never got going offensively in a 38-0 loss to the Cyclones.

"They've got a great football team," Nevada head coach Andrew Kleeman said. "We knew we'd have to play really well to put ourselves in position to win the game, but at the end of the day we ran into one heck of a football team."

Nevada quarterback James Edwards (3) runs with the ball for a first down against Harlan during the first quarter of the Class 3A playoff quarterfinal at Merrill Field Friday at Harlan. The No. 6 Cubs fell to the No. 1 Cyclones, 38-0, to end the best season in school history at 9-2.

With the loss Nevada finished the best season in school history at 9-2. The Cubs fell one victory shy of reaching the UNI-Dome.

"That doesn't take away anything that we've done," Andrew Kleeman said." This has been an unbelievable group of young men to coach. They've done everything we've asked of them and more. I couldn't be prouder of each and every one of them."

Harlan will take a perfect 11-0 record into the semifinals.

Here's what we learned from Nevada's quarterfinal loss:

Defense gives gutsy effort

Nevada did all it could to slow down an explosive Harlan offense that entered the game averaging 52.8 points per game.

Harlan drove the ball down the field only twice all game. Nevada was hurt by a short field, starting when Harlan had to go just eight yards for its first touchdown after a Cub fumble midway through the first quarter.

Nevada had made a defensive stand at the 4-yard line prior to the fumble. 

"Scheme-wise, we did pretty well," Nevada safety Caleb Kooiker said. "They made a couple plays on the deep ball, but we were in position. Those guys were good. We fought pretty well — I thought the defense played great tonight."

Harlan led 14-0 at the half. The Cyclones were held to 313 yards — 95 below their season average.

Cael Franzen had 13 tackles, Kooiker 7.5, Gavin Melohn six and Kater Beving 4.5 for Nevada. Beving also recovered a fumble and Ty Dittmer had one tackle for loss.

Harlan wide receiver Connor Frame (2) gets tackled by Nevada cornerback Caeden DaSilva (13) after making a catch during the first quarter in the Class 3A playoff quarterfinal at Merrill Field Friday in Harlan. DaSilva and the Cub defense gave all they had, holding Harlan to 95 yards below its season average (313) and giving up just 14 points in the first quarter. But the Cubs eventually wore down in a 38-0 loss.

Offense struggles

Nevada has one of the top rushing attacks in 3A and one of the best big-play receivers in 6-foot-3 senior Caeden DaSilva. 

But the Cubs could muster only 113 yards against a Harlan defense that is clicking at the right time. The Cyclones recorded their fourth consecutive shutout.

James Edwards completed 5 of 15 passes for 47 yards and ran for 34 yards on 20 carries. Drew Robinson made two catches for 19 yards for the Cubs.

Season to remember

The Nevada football players and coaches can hold their heads high. 

Harlan is headed to the semifinals for the 29th time in its storied history. This was Nevada's first shot at reaching the UNI-Dome.

The Cub football program used to be an automatic victory for a lot of teams, especially during the years Nevada has been in 3A. Not anymore.

Nevada has a playoff victory two years in a row after just missing the playoffs in 2019. The Cubs are 20-7 over that span.

"I'm really hoping the underclassmen can see this," Kooiker said. "Maybe someday Nevada will be a football powerhouse."

The Cubs may very well be on their way to being a top 3A power for years to come.

Harlan 38, Nevada 0

Nevada    0        0         0          0 — 0

Harlan      7        7       14        10 — 38

Individual statistical leaders

Rushing: Harlan — William Kenkel 19-55. Nevada — James Edwards 20-34.

Passing: Harlan — Teagon Kasperbauer 12-22-0-198. Nevada — Edwards 5-15-0-47.

Receiving: Harlan — Joey Moser 3-80. Nevada — Drew Robinson 2-19.

Tackles: Harlan — Jameson Bieker 5. Nevada — Cael Franzen 13.

Sacks: Harlan — Bieker 2.

Fumble recoveries: Harlan — Matthew Sorfonden. Nevada — Karter Beving.

Nevada's quarterback James Edwards (3), linebacker Cael Franzen (16) and offensive guard Holden Fry (67) hold their state playoffs participation trophy after losing 38-0 at Harlan in a Class 3A quarterfinal Friday.