AMERICAN FALLS – Give Matthew Klassen the ball and good fortune follows.
It did Friday in Aberdeen’s annual first-week rivalry game against American Falls.
The Tigers’ final three plays of the first half were all rushing touchdowns of 35-plus yards by Klassen to give his team a 27-0 halftime lead on the road.
Aberdeen (1-0) rolled from there, winning 41-0 to increase its winning streak over American Falls to six.
“We’re expecting big things out of him this year, especially running the ball,” Tigers coach Jeff Duffin said of Klassen. “And he’s thrown the ball – so far in our scrimmages – very well. And tonight, when we needed him to throw it, he put it on the money. So we’re excited about how he’ll play.”
Klassen attributed his success to his blockers and the rushing threat posed by speedster Hulizes Ortiz, who defenses need to hone in on after he rushed for 1,217 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017.
After Ortiz scored the first touchdown on a 40-yard run 4 minutes into the game, Klassen accounted for each of the final five TDs.
Klassen started off with a 35-run run, capping a two-and-a-half-minute, 54-yard drive near the end of the first quarter.
With the Tigers leading 14-0, American Falls mounted its best drive that stretched over nine minutes thanks, in part, to a fumbled Aberdeen punt return. On Aberdeen’s 17-yard line, the Beavers converted a fourth-and-1 with a 5-yard rush by leading Beavers ball carrier Jose Cervantes.
But American Falls went downhill from there, failing to score and watching Klassen respond with a 91-yard run on a one-play touchdown drive, the first of three for Aberdeen. The next one happened on the next drive when the senior ran 46 yards for a score that featured less open spaces than the other TD runs and a broken tackle at the end.
Klassen gave Aberdeen its last touchdown of the game with one minute left in the third quarter, on a 61-yard rushing score on the first play of the drive. The quarterback finished with 161 yards on eight carries, good for 20.1 yards per rush. He also completed one pass for a 21-yard touchdown to Abel Torres in the third quarter.
“My task is lead this team to the best of my ability and to take us to the state championship,” said Klassen, whose team hosts Declo next Friday. “That’s the main goal. That’s our big goal. That’s what we’re striving for every day.”
American Falls has a long way to go before that becomes a destination under first-year coach Cory Hollingsworth, who watched Aberdeen — the team he laid the foundation for as head coach from 2001-12 — deliver a drubbing.
Duffin said he was on the hiring committee that picked Hollingsworth to coach at Aberdeen.
“We’ve been friends a long time,” Duffin said. “He’s a good coach. He’ll rebuild this program.”
Like the Tigers, who finished 1-7 in Hollingsworth’s first year in 2001, the Beavers have a long way to go after going 2-6 last season and missing the playoffs for the first time in the 2010s.
The Beavers showcased a double-wing offense and passed the ball four times, which all fell incomplete. They ran the ball 43 times for 114 yards.
When Hollingsworth took a knee with his team at midfield after the game, there were about 30 eligible varsity players surrounding him. American Falls (0-1) plays for its first win next Friday at Kimberly.
“We can get our pad level down. We can be tougher,” Hollingsworth said. “We were gassed a little bit. We had some breakdowns. I felt like it was a close game. We were down 14-0, we were moving the ball down, and then that didn’t go through, and then we had two breakdowns and suddenly it’s broken open.”