Warriors look for second win at homecoming
Even though an unfortunate accident has given homecoming weekend at Whittell High a somber tone, Saturday’s gridiron game goes on, and the Warriors want to win.
Whittell’s football team has battled all year, starting the season shorthanded and forfeiting a game before exorcising a two-year-plus winless streak, then putting up a fight against some of the Northern Nevada 3A’s better teams. Saturday’s game – at 1:30 p.m. in Zephyr Cove against Hawthorne – represents Whittell’s last chance for a home win, and with unbeaten Lovelock the only opponent after that, the best chance for the season’s second win.
“All things considered, I think they’re doing pretty well,” Whittell head coach John Summers said of his Warriors, whose varsity ranks have grown to 21. “I think they were kind of happy to get the Manogue game past and I think that the were kind of surprised to do as well as they did against Manogue.”
Hawthorne’s Serpents represent a different kind of visitor than the Bishop Manogue Miners, the last team to make the trip to Zephyr Cove. The Miners improved to 7-0 with a 59-20 win over Whittell on Saturday, but the Serpents are in the opposite situation, 0-7 so far. Whittell stands between the two extremes with a 1-5 record. Both of Saturday’s competitors have managed to offset a lack of depth with an abundance of youth, but have struggled against the league’s more experienced teams.
“We’re real young,” said Hawthorne coach Ted Doramus, in his sixth year charming wins from the Serpents. “We’ve got five sophomores on the offensive line and three sophomores on the defensive line.”
Whittell also is young in the trenches, and the defensive line just got younger by addition. Senior Matt Miller anchors the unit at center and defensive tackle, and he will lead three freshmen – Jake Summers, Ian Haessly, Joe Ilk and Nick Gant, who will log minutes at tackle. Miller anchors the defense along with linebacker Joel Warnick, a defender who has drawn Doramus’ notice.
Warnick’s play will be very important for Whittell this weekend, as will the ability of all the Warriors to sniff out the misdirection that keeps offenses like Hawthorne’s running.
“I think our kids are just looking too much in at the quarterback, and they can’t get confused by all the misdirection stuff,” Summers said.
The Warriors face their third wing-T offense in as many games, and should have a better idea what to expect after seeing similar schemes from Manogue on Saturday and Yerington on Oct. 1.
“Whenever we get a chance, we run that,” Doramus said.
Hawthorne’s players, though, have been Serpents out of water frequently. The team has found itself behind against a number of high-ranked teams, forcing Doramus to abandon the run for the pass. The passing game runs through 6-4 quarterback Gerrod West – who also plays middle linebacker and punter – and focuses on receivers coming out of the backfield.
“If we get in there and Gerrod feels comfortable, we start off on the right foot, we get our confidence going,” Doramus said.
Tackle Dale Dyer, 6-1 and 180, shoulders the blocking load in the absence of lineman Jesse Schulenberg; and Chris Ford, a 220-pound fullback, is a big target for Whittell’s defenders.
Whittell, by contrast, is a big-play, pro-set offense. The offense flows through senior quarterback Trent Gordon, equally deadly throwing to receivers Luke Forvilly, Richard Fore or Jacob Corners, or running Whittell’s dive option. The Warriors also can keep the ball on the ground with its running backs – either big-play threat Chauncey Lane, or senior Matt Wiggins.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball against them,” Summers said.
Whittell may choose to press the young secondary in Hawthorne’s 4-3 set by going deep. The youngsters have stepped up, but Hawthorne relies heavily on some talented freshmen.
“We try to do some things,” Doramus said. “We’re just hoping the young kids are coming along, and defensively, you can see them starting to come together.”
It hasn’t been enough, so far, to pay off in a win for the Serpents against a stout season schedule. Last week, Hawthorne drew Virgin Valley, and lost to the second-ranked team in Nevada. The Serpents also have played Mammoth, ranked second in its division in California, stayed with Dayton before losing a momentum-killing fumble before halftime, and fell to powerhouse Bishop Manogue.
“We’ve been playing a pretty tough schedule,” Doramus said. “We haven’t played a team with a losing record yet.”
“It was pretty hard to get anything started against them,” he said of his team’s game with Manogue.
If anyone knows that story, it’s Summers. Whittell also played Dayton tough, rolled up 300-plus pass yards against Yerington, and played Manogue tough for a quarter last week before the Miners pulled away. The big difference between the two seasons has been a “W” in Whittell’s third week against Incline.
“That thing is kind of wearing off, but our last couple of games, we’ve moved the ball pretty well … so that’s kind of kept the enthusiasm up,” Summers said.
“It sure would be nice to finish ahead of two or three teams in our league this year.”
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