(Lenox) -- The Lenox football team enters Friday night's district championship game newly ranked after a dominant 7-0 start.
The Tigers (7-0, 5-0) took care of business last week by beating Martensdale-St. Marys 62-20. The victory came off an unexpected bye week because Griswold forfeited the week before.
"All week long, we talked about not having a slow start," said co-head coach Cole Bonde. "We preached that, and we still started pretty slow. Some of that was knocking some rust off. We made some adjustments at halftime and started to play how we wanted to play."
The Tigers scored 28 second-quarter points in the win and ran wild with 562 rushing yards and eight scores. Isaac Grundman led the ground attack with 283 yards and six scores on 13 totes, while Keigan Kitzman and Gabe Funk added scores. The trio ran to success behind the colossal offensive line of Dawson Marshall, Devin Whipple and Hernan Castor.
"Those big guys up front are very physical and communicate well," Bonde said. "And whatever back is in the backfield runs extremely hard and reads the field well."
Defensively, the Tigers have held opponents to only 89 points and contained Martensdale-St. Marys to 232 yards -- 49 fewer than their season average.
"We had to know where (Jack) Franey was," Bonde said. "He was a big focus point, but it came down to just doing our jobs. When we adjusted at halftime, they did their jobs and played well."
The win helped catapult the Tigers to No. 7 in the Radio Iowa rankings, and it only took six victories by an average of 46.6 points in six contested games.
"We don't mind it," Bonde said about his team's lack of state recognition."We tell our kids that if we take care of our jobs, everything else will take care of itself down the road. I think that is happening now. It's all good being under the radar. We will keep doing our thing and chipping away."
Now Coach Bonde's team looks to tame the beast that is Fremont-Mills. The Knights (5-2, 5-0) have controlled the all-time series against Lenox with a 7-1 edge, including the last four by a combined 219-42. The two teams were in the same district in 2020 but did not face each other because of COVID.
"Anytime you hear Fremont-Mills, you know it's going to be a long 48 minutes," Bonde said. "They are always well-coached and disciplined. They have some great playmakers, and they do everything right. They make you do everything right as well if you want to stay in the game."
Senior quarterback Jake Malcom leads the Knights offense with 711 passing yards and 14 scores. He also has seven rushing touchdowns in a ground game that averages 248.7 yards per game.
The winner of Fremont-Mills/Lenox clinches the 8-Player District 9 championship and secures a home playoff game while the loser's path becomes murkier.
"The boys know what's on the line," Bonde said. "It's for a lot, but we have to play our game to have a shot. The big thing for us is to control ourselves. If we do that, things will be alright."
Bonde expects a hard-hitting, high-stakes football game on Friday.
"When you watch both sides, we are very similar," Bonde said. "Both teams fly to the ball and are very physical. It should make for one heckuva game. I think it's going to come down to the trenches and tackling."
Trevor Maeder and Mike Wood will be on the call on the KMA Sports YouTube Channel. Click below to hear the full interview with Coach Bonde.