At last once again the best start to a weekend is here. It’s Friday and that means football under the lights once more for the Waukee football team.
For the second straight week in a row last week, the Warriors took on a top tier opponent in Southeast Polk. After a tough loss to Dowling, the Warriors pulled together a 21-14 win over the Rams to even up their record at 1-1.
So far Waukee football has taken on two top tier teams including the five time reigning champs in Dowling as part of a non-district schedule that Warrior head coach Scott Carlson says has benefits outside the win-loss column.
“The thing is you could not play a team with the caliber of a Dowling but you might be deceived with what you have,” began Carlson. “There’s no deception when you play a schedule like ours and face a team like Dowling. You’re flaws are unmasked and revealed for everyone to see. To me that’s the greatest benefit to playing a team like Dowling, you know what you have to work on and from there it’s only positive.”
As for last week, there was a mixed bag of emotions with obtaining the win but also witnessing a star like Blake Espeland suffer and injury before the game. From that negative, there came a positive and it came in the form of depth as Espeland’s replacement, Sam Yeaway, tore up the Rams for 125 rushing yards.
“Sam had a great game last week,” said Carlson. “It showed that this team has solid depth despite being a younger team. He really stepped up and showed us that once Blake returns healthy, we have more versatility in the running game.”
Last week also showcased quite a balanced attack by the Warriors who broke out for 204 rushing yards and 162 passing yards. It was a great break out win for the Warriors and highlighted coach Carlson knew his team was capable of.
“With the balance like we had, it really came from how we reacted to what the defense gave us,” said Carlson. “When we needed to make a play through the air or on the ground we did but we also were able to adapt on the fly with whatever we needed to do to win.”
That very skill of adaptability is what coach Carlson and the players have been working on since day one.
“We may not be the biggest team out there but we have a team with the ability to go wherever the game takes us,” said Evan Gray, Warrior linemen.
A big reason for that as fellow senior Carter Boyd mentioned was a good mental approach to the game.
“There are a lot of smart guys on this team who really know football,” began Boyd. “If things aren’t going our way, we are able to think through it and come up with a solution pretty quickly.”
So far through two weeks, it’s been the physical battle that has been the biggest challenge for the Warriors. This week however, as they battle another top ten team in Cedar Rapids Prairie, that mental sharpness will need to be just as strong.
“We are going to see some really crazy stuff,” began Carlson. “Prairie is known for its unique offensive style as they are a single wing team. You’re going to see two backs in the backfield, either of which can take a direct snap. The big thing for our defense to focus on will be the misdirection and confusion which in the past was common place but in today’s game you just don’t see that offensive style very often. That makes it that much harder to practice for it and it’s a real challenge to game plan for it.”
Despite the complexity that the Warriors might see on the other side of the field, the best way to combat that for coach Carlson will be to keep it simple.
“Our guys have to be really disciplined in their assignments,” began Carlson. “If you follow where you think the ball is going and that’s not your read, it can really expose the entire defense.”
On the offensive side of the ball, what was great balance against Southeast Polk, will need to be even more so tonight.
“If we have the opportunity for a quick strike we’ll want to take advantage of that,” said Carlson. “At the same time, there are some moments in the game where we’ll have to slow things down a bit. We need to make sure we control the tempo of the game to whatever situation presents itself.”
The Warriors haven’t faced off against a Cedar Rapids Prairie team in over ten seasons and the match up will begin anew tonight. Kick off from Cedar Rapids will begin at 7 p.m.