Defensive Warriors visit Pyramid Lake Friday in league opener
While the Whittell Warriors practiced football Wednesday afternoon, school sirens were going off and Warriors coaches were receiving tornado warnings on their cell phones.
The skies were ominous and black. It was ugly above the grassy practice surface. As it turns out, a waterspout did touch down on Lake Tahoe not too far away during practice.
But the Warriors weren’t focused on funnel clouds, they were gearing for their league opener Friday night and are excited with the way their defense is shutting down opponents.
Ask the team captains what the strength of their 8-man team is and they all say defense.
They talk about how many points they’ve allowed through two games, 6, but act like the points they’ve scored, 98, is an afterthought.
“Defense is our strength,” said senior co-captain Connor Huber. “Out of the two teams we’ve played so far we’ve only given up six points. That shows how strong our defense is.”
And Huber is an offensive lineman and has helped paved the way for the Warriors rushing attack that has collected 635 yards with an average of over 12 yards per attempt. Huber also starts at linebacker and enjoys shutting down opponents a little more than running over them.
Even Connor’s twin brother, Corey, another co-captain who is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game and 14 yards per attempt agrees.
“The strength of our team is probably our defense,” said Corey Huber. “Coach (Doug) Patton does a great job getting us set up.”
While they all pump up the defense, they say the offense has a lot of work to do to clean up penalties and get on the same page.
The Warriors open play this Friday in the 1A Northern West League and will visit Pyramid Lake, a team they’ve owned in the three years head coach Phil Bryant has been running the program.
Whittell has whacked the Lakers 48-16 in 2014, 71-0 in 2015 and 55-0 last year.
“This week we’re trying not only preparing against Pyramid, but for future teams throughout the season,” said senior linebacker/receiver and co-captain Nic Buchholz. “We don’t take any team lightly. We prepare the same way every week. They’re a better team this year but hopefully so are we.”
Like playing against Eureka last week, Friday’s clash will be another size vs. speed matchup, and the Warriors are hoping for the same result.
“We can’t go in with overconfidence because we won’t play well,” said Corey Huber. “The biggest thing we need to do is block those guys, they’re much bigger than us and outweigh us by, I don’t even know, a lot. They’re like two times the size of us so the big thing for us will be speed. We need to execute all our plays.”
Connor Huber said the offensive line wants to get at least a tie at the line with the larger Lakers.
“If we can at least get a tie at the line, or beat them, it will set up the rest of the game for us,” he said.
The defense will focus on stopping Pyramid’s physical rushing attack. The Lakers like to line up and run right at the defense using their size.
But where or not the defense is ahead of the offense, the Warriors feel they’re headed in the right direction.
“I feel like we’re right where we wanna be,” Buchholz said. “We were shaky in the first game, but after the second game I know we’re on the right track. A lot of underclassmen stepped up this past week and that gives me a lot of hope. I feel like we have a great foundation to build off for the rest of the season.”
Home away from home
While their field at the high school is being renovated, the Warriors are playing their home games at South Tahoe Middle School. They hosted their first game last week and it turned out to be a good surprise.
“Playing there was actually really cool,” Buchholz said. “It was better than I thought it would be. They have a nice field. It was weird trying to make someone else’s field your home field, but after playing there and having our fans and cheerleaders there, it really started to feel like home.”
He was even surprised at the support in the stands
“We had a lot of fans out there, I wasn’t expecting that kind of turnout,” Buchholz said. “Eureka was cool, good sportsmanship. In all, it was a good experience.”
Whittell will host three more games at the middle school, Sept. 29 vs. Coleville, Oct. 13 vs Mineral City and Oct. 26 vs. Smith Valley.
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