A balanced attack on tap as DCG football begins postseason against Carlisle

Andrew Brown
Dallas County News
DCG head football coach Scott Heitland rejoices after the Mustang defense intercepts ADM to seal the win on Friday, Oct. 2 in Grimes.

Following their second unblemished regular season in four years, the Dallas Center-Grimes football team will officially take to the postseason on Friday, Oct. 23. 

It will be their second straight postseason appearance and seventh postseason berth in the past 13 seasons. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the postseason structure has been altered and for the Mustangs, that has meant a first-round bye. Residing within Class 3A's Pod 12, DCG will fight another Friday on the gridiron and this time, they will battle the Wildcats from Carlisle. 

The contest will bring back a battle three years in the making with the last time the two teams meeting going back to 2017. It's been a favorable outcome for the most part in the short series for DCG. The Mustangs have come out on top over the Wildcats five out of the six meetings between the two squads dating back to 2010. The contest will also be the third postseason battle between these two squads with DCG coming out on top in each of the prior two playoff battles. 

"Carlisle is a very good football team," said DCG head coach Scott Heitland. "This is a team that might be 5-3 but they are quite a tough opponent to face."

The Wildcats average no less than 49 points per game during victories so far in 2020. They come in as quite the offensive threat via the running game with a Class 3A leading 2,742 rushing yards. What will make things harder for the DCG defense will be the fact that Carlisle ranks second in Class 3A with 36 rushing scores. 

DCG's Keaton Jackson attempts to haul in a pass on Friday, Sept. 25 in the homecoming game against Norwalk.

"They don't throw the ball a whole lot but they will hit you with a big pass play with how they are going to run the ball consistently," began Heitland. "Their running game gives them the opportunity for big plays because of their ability to make reads with veteran players." 

One such veteran player to home in on for the DCG defense will be Karson Dunn. The senior quarterback has tossed 471 passing yards but has rushed for nearly 700 on the ground with seven scores. 

"Dunn is very good with the football in his hands. He makes good reads on the option and those are straight reads where he's making the decision based on what the defender does," Heitland said. "There's a lot of times he runs down the field for 30, 40, or 50 yards because someone didn't do their job on defense. We're going to need to be very disciplined if we want to stop that offense." 

Others to look out for on the Wildcats roster include fellow senior Nic Goodhue with 790 yards rushing and 11 scores and Jonathan Dunn with a team-best 12 rushing scores and 757 yards on the ground. 

On the other side for the Mustangs, they will continue to lean on their experience and look to operate with a balanced attack to take the win. Defensively, that means leaning on experience from veterans like Blake Willey, Nic Lawton and Brody Burgher.  

DCG quarterback Huston Halverson looks to throw a pass on Friday, Sept. 25 in the homecoming battle against Norwalk.

"This team has faced maybe more adversity than we've had in the past few years," Heitland said. "We've had to overcome injuries and we've found ourselves winning in a multitude of different ways. We've won games with a minute to go, we've made goal-line stands, we've come from behind, and we've won some games handily. When you look at this team, they've been through a lot and there's not a lot more that you can throw at them in the postseason that they haven't already seen."

DCG has won by as little as two points (16-14 vs ADM) and as much as 48 points (48-0 vs Perry). DCG comes into the contest averaging 29 points per game with an average of  320 yards per contest to compliment. All that has come with the injury bug striking the team, including downing their starting quarterback Ty Walker for the season and temporarily sidelining star back Zach Brand and top receiver Caden Grimes.

"This year we are as balanced if not more than we were last year and even given how Zach has been so good for us this year," Heitland said. "That balance has been important to us. On nights where we've needed to pass we've passed and when we've needed to run we've run. We don't feel like we've been forced to do things and we've had the opportunity of choosing how we go about our game plan." 

DCG's offense has consisted of 62 percent rushing and roughly 37 percent passing in terms of yards on the season. Of course, that balance has also included the defensive side of the ball where DCG has given up just 13 points per game on average. 

DCG senior Brody Burgher tackles the Norwalk running back on Friday, Sept. 25 in the homecoming contest.

"Our defense has been big for us this year," began Heitland. "You take a look at our veteran leaders like Blake Willey, Nic Lawton and Brody Burgher, we have valuable experience at all levels. They've also helped to make everyone around them better."

 The Mustangs  wibattle the Carlisle Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 at DCG High School,  where the Mustangs haven't lost a playoff game since the 2017 campaign.