West High set a school record for points scored with 76 against Dubuque Hempstead on Friday. Think about that for a bit. Seventy-six points in an 11-man game with a continuous clock throughout the second half.
“We played really well,” West coach Brian Sauser understated. “We had a great week of practice coming into the game. Of course you never expect to score 76 points. The only way you score like that is if you’re scoring in all three phases of the game.”
West scored every time it had the ball, twice when Hempstead had the ball (Jeremy Morgan returned two interceptions for touchdowns) and twice on special teams (Reid Bonner and Tavian Smith ran back kickoffs for touchdowns).
Clearly Morgan, who caught seven passes for 111 yards, was not bothered by a prior ankle injury.
“Jeremy is just so good. It’s hard to explain exactly what he brings to our football team,” Sauser said. “Obviously, he’s a 6-6 athlete out there, but his leadership and just having everybody lined up all the time. He just elevates everybody’s play around him.”
West ran 30 plays in the first half with its first team in the game and had 22 first downs. The Trojan reserves ran six plays in the second half and yet scored 21 points.
Sauser confessed that he was a bit concerned with his team’s emotional state coming in for a road game against a winless opponent.
“I think the fact that they were playing on somebody else’s homecoming, that kind of gave them a little extra energy in their step,” Sauser said. “They kind of took that personally.”
* CITY HIGH REGROUPS: The Little Hawks suffered a rare shutout Friday on homecoming at Bates Field. Dubuque Senior took advantage of City turnovers to capture the momentum and never let go in a 21-0 win. City’s first drive went the length of the field with its punishing ground game and had the Rams on their heels, but then City gave it away.
“It really was (the difference),” coach Dan Sabers said. “We were doing what we wanted to do, things we like to do and then that happens. That’s the game of football. You have to be able to overcome it and (Friday) night we just weren’t able to get that done.”
Still it was only 7-0 at halftime and Sabers thought, “Hey, we can get this ship righted and go to work, but Senior is a good ballclub. They’ve got big, strong kids, and they went in at halftime and said, ‘Hey this is our game to go get.'”
Sabers thought Senior came into the game with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder after its undefeated season was ruined by West’s dominant victory the week before. The Rams had something to prove against City, and although the Little Hawks responded pretty well emotionally, they did not execute well as their six turnovers attest.
The Little Hawks’ quarterback situation continues to be muddled. Mitch Wieland, who won the job out of preseason, was not yet back Friday because of a shoulder injury. Tyler Stika has played the last two games and directed a road victory over Hempstead before the team was stifled by Senior.
“It’s something we have to look at and go to work on,” Sabers said. “Obviously, (Friday) wasn’t as good as we would have hoped for. Tyler’s a good kid, and he’s working hard.”
Sabers said he might explore using Jake Leohr again in a wildcat set. But City has to get its offense back in gear, particularly for Friday’s Battle of the Boot against high-scoring West.
* BEARS HAVE THEIR GROWL BACK: West Branch football coach Butch Pedersen won his 250th game Friday with a 55-20 rout of Sigourney-Keota on the road. That was special, to be sure, but what he saw from his team is really what he was excited about.
“I was extremely pleased with the intensity that we showed,” Pedersen said. “We’ve been a football team that has had trouble putting games together, and (Friday) night that was one of our goals. We were very focused. You could tell on the bus ride down that it was a different kind of a team on that bus.”
Offensively the Bears have thrived with a strong ground game behind Cade Jones and Bo Bower, but they are now beginning to have confidence in diversifying.
“One of our keys is (quarterback) Cole Cook. He’s starting to come around,” Pedersen said. “He was 6-for-8 for 84 yards and two touchdowns. We have a variety of formations now that we didn’t have at the beginning of the year.”
The other factor is the Bears are getting some players back from injury.
Pedersen, whose first love is defense, said that side of the ball continues to be a work in progress.
“The thing that I’m impressed with the defense now is they are running to the football,” he said. “That’s mandatory if you’re going to have a good defense.
“We have a chance to finish on a strong note. We can go 7-2 and make the playoffs and see what we can do when we get to that point.”
* SOLON READIES FOR MARION: Solon used its game at Anamosa, a 56-0 victory, to get things squared away for the final push toward a district title. The Spartans must travel to district co-leader Marion on Friday.
“We were pleased with the execution we had on offense,” Solon assistant coach Mark Sovers said. “(Quarterback) Rory Siddell has really come into his own and is growing into the offense. We kind of counted on him at the beginning of the year as being a playmaker. The exciting thing is that the other kids are figuring it out, the roles that they have and how important that they are. Kids like Austin Holub and Chris McNutt.
“Part of that too is the offensive line is starting to round into shape.”
Games like the one against Anamosa can be valuable to a team before it gets back into showdown games.
“It gives you a chance to work on the things that you want to see that you know you’re going to need down the road to be successful,” Sovers said. “So you can really concentrate on an area of your game you need to improve on.”
Marion is unbeaten in the district as is Solon. DeWitt is one game back. The Sabers have lost to Solon but haven’t played Marion yet.
* REGINA HAS DISTRICT TITLE ON LINE: Regina thumped non-district foe Alburnett, 54-20, Friday, but things get serious again this week with district co-leader Wilton coming to town. Barring a huge upset in the final two weeks, this will be the district championship game.
Even with the score out of hand, Regina was able to learn some things.
“We get everyone’s best shot, and a lot of times when they do that, they throw different looks at us,” Regina assistant coach Mike Brinkman said. “Alburnett packed the box, did some blitz schemes up the middle. Did some things different offensively, running the veer and trying to hit some slants. Teams try to throw a different flavor at us, so it’s good for our kids to try to adjust to that. We, as coaches, have to adjust to it, and in the long run, it helps us become a better team.”
Wilton will throw the ball around from spread formations.
“This will probably be the first time this year we’ve seen a truer spread team like this,” Brinkman said. “Alburnett tried to throw it around a little bit (Friday) night. That was good for us in building up for this week. As a d-line coach, we’re going to have to work on getting better as pass rushers, getting fresh legs in there, maybe doing a little rotation. It’s going to be fun.”