It was a win to remember for the Dallas Center-Grimes football team Friday, Sep. 6 as they took down the Norwalk Warriors on the road 27-21.
The victory marked just the first win for the Mustang gridiron stars since Sep. 21 of last season in a 14-13 win over Perry. Last season the Mustangs averaged just ten points per game but blew that out of the water Friday night with a 27 point performance. It was great to grab the win but what was even more meaningful for 16-year head coach Scott Heitland, was exactly how his Mustangs took the victory. It may sound like a broken record but experience is king and never has there been a bigger showcase of that than what the Mustangs did Friday night. The positive outcomes based on maturity shown on the field came in many different forms and that included a quarter-by-quarter breakdown. DC-G experienced just one deficit all game long and a lot of that, as coach Heitland mentioned, boiled down to positioning.
“One thing we did far better than last year was putting ourselves in positions to be successful,” began Heitland. “Last year we would really hurt ourselves with turnovers or penalties that more experienced teams would have avoided. Friday night we were not only clean with our assignments but we were clean with our decision making and that was big for us.”
Indeed the lack of turnovers really helped things out especially given that DC-G didn’t suffer a single turnover, a far cry from the two turnover per game average they held at the end of last season. Friday night was a perfectly executed game in terms of turnovers, a major key factor in the wind for Heitland.
“When you stop and ask how did we improve from week one to week two, the biggest thing that stands out is how we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers,” said Heitland. “While we didn’t help ourselves out with penalties we sure did improve ourselves by putting us in the best possible positions. It’s far easier when you can attack the game tied up or even down one score instead of two or three because you’ve given up turnovers. The biggest highlight of that came when we made the second-half push that we did.”
Perhaps the biggest showcase of how the maturity and experience impacted DC-G’s game came following the halftime break. Star running back Zach Brand was removed from the game via an injury and up to that point, Brand produced 73 yards and one touchdown on ten carries before suffering an MCL sprain in the second quarter. That’s where the biggest differences between last year and this year showed. From scoring just seven points through the first two quarters, DC-G then produced 20 of their 27 points the rest of the game despite Brand not seeing the field. Where last year’s team may have crumbled, the 2019 edition rose the in-game challenge and produced a second half to be proud of, beginning with a simple game plan switch.
“The great thing about our team this year is that we have so many different means to attack an opponent,” began Heitland. “When we went in at halftime, there was no doubt what our game plan was going to be in the second half, and that was to throw the ball. Kind of took a little bit to get our feet back underneath us but then we found our nitch was with the new back. The poise and confidence Ty Walker showed in the pocket were tremendous and the way our offensive line gave him time was instrumental in the win. It was a big loss to lose Zach but this team did a great job of bouncing back. Last year we didn’t have the maturity to do that and find the win. That’s been a huge difference.”
Walker sure did impress everybody in the stadium Friday night completing 16-of-24 passing for 158 yards and two scores. Walker himself made a big leap from his first varsity season to this year. From averaging nearly two interceptions a game last season, Walker made no such mistake Friday night. Through the first two weeks, Walker has shown a lot of improvement which has so far cultivated in a strong week two performance with much more to come. From decision making to physical performance, there were a lot of things that stood out as improvement points for coach Heitland.
“Ever since week one we’ve seen a vast improvement in decision making from Ty,” started Heitland. “He’s really learned from his mistakes and for the most part has done a good job of recognizing where and when his passing windows appear and disappear.”
Even with that said, that wasn’t all that Walker showcased Friday night.
“What I really liked out of Ty was his ability to use his legs as well as his arm,” began Heitland. “He was able to extend plays with his legs and not only allowed his teammates to create plays, but wear the defense down as well.”
All of that will go into the preparation for this weeks contest which puts the Mustangs at home for the first time in the 2019 season. They will be welcoming in the Bombers of Ballard to town for a non-district rematch. The Bombers defeated the Mustangs 15-7 last season and just as they were a year ago, their potency will be a challenge for DC-G Friday night.
“Ballard has a very solid quarterback-running-back combo that we’ll need to identify and suppress on defense if we want to be successful,” said Heitland. “As an offense they do a lot of window dressing to make simple plays look complex and one of the challenges for our defense is recognizing that and making sure we simplify the play before the snap.”
It sure will be a challenge as Ballard quarterback Connor Drew has completed 64 percent of his passes through two weeks while being one of three rushers to post over 40 yards and a score on the ground.
Another challenge will be how the Mustangs respond without Zach Brand in the lineup, something coach Heitland is prepared for.
“The thing is we believe we haven’t lost him for the year so we have to attack things week by week with him,” said Heitland. “Luke Busby came in and did a fine job for us scoring the touchdown late. While losing Zach for now hurts we know we have a capable back in Luke. There really won’t be much of a difference about how we approach this game from a rushing standpoint. If our line did a great job blocking for Zach they should be able to do the same for Luke. The only difference is in their style of running where Zach is more of a patient cut-back runner, Luke is more of a slasher and hammer it kind of guy. Zach is a little more powerful of a back but Luke makes up for that with his speed.”
DC-G will be seeking their third win against Ballard over the last four years and it will all start with kickoff from DC-G Stadium at 7:30 p.m.