Whittell battles Eureka in playoffs
The Whittell Warriors football team enters the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 1A Northern Region football playoffs seeking its third straight trip to the semifinals.
In the Warriors way are the Eureka Vandals who won the Northern Eastern 8-Man League.
The Warriors played the Vandals in their second game of the season on Sept. 8 and came away with a 54-6 victory at South Tahoe Middle School. They came out of that game banged up due to the Vandals’ physicality. And they are also banged up right now as they prepare to make the seven and a half hour journey west to the coast for Friday’s 7 p.m. clash.
“We’re a little dinged up, but at this time of year, we’re not a big team, and the bones are so close to the outer layer of skin that guys are feeling their bumps and bruises,” said Warriors head coach Phillip Bryant.
The coach is not putting his players through physical practices at this time of year. He wants their bodies to “freshen up” a little bit and be ready for the Vandals’ physical offense.
“Eureka is a physical team, primarily their offense,” Bryant said. “We still feel we can do the things we do. I don’t think their physicality matches our speed. But we need our key skill guys to be healthy to execute. Hopefully we’ll be alright.”
The Warriors (8-1) got healthy in the win column last week against Smith Valley, a week after their only loss at Virginia City.
Their quick strike offense was on full display with quarterback Isaiah Womack running for long touchdowns three times and Dalton Warswick adding another. Womack also hit Nic Buchholz for a long touchdown pass and Corey Huber, the Nevada all-time career rushing leader in 8-man, returned a punt for touchdown. Whittell ran just nine offensive plays in the first half last week and had seven touchdowns.
“We can score from anywhere on the field in one play and they’re not a big strike team like that,” Bryant said.
But the head coach has concerns when it comes to stopping the Vandals ground game. The Warriors are not a big team and have trouble dealing with offenses that run the ball straight at them.
“What we have to be concerned about, the way to attack us is to run the ball with power, everybody knows that,” Bryant said. “If they go into to what they did to us in the second half the first time, they will be effective at controlling the ball. For them, they’ll have to shorten the game, control the ball and hope for mistakes to beat us.”
The forecast for Friday by the coast is not the same as in the Lake Tahoe Basin where it will look a lot like winter during the weekend. There is a 10 percent chance of rain and close to freezing temperatures. So talking about, or worrying about rain will not be on the list of things he talks about with his team.
In the end, Bryant thinks his team will be victorious because of his team’s execution. And he doesn’t want the season to end yet. He wants to keep playing. If the Warriors win, they’ll likely get another shot at Virginia City with the winner heading to the state championship game.
“I believe in our kids,” Bryant said. “I think the things we do well are things they don’t defend very well. But we have to execute to stop them. We’ll see what happens, but I wanna keep playing.”