Whittell, Virginia City battle for 1A Northern supremacy
Whittell senior Alex Byer compares Saturday’s football game against Virginia City to a midterm exam. The previous seven games were like tests the Warriors were just trying to get through, and they did with straight As. But the midterm carries the most weight.
“It’s make or break,” Byer said. “I’m happy, I’m nervous and I can barf as much as I want at anytime.”
A regular season game doesn’t get any bigger.
The Warriors and Muckers are both undefeated and the previous games were all funneling toward Saturday’s clash that will likely decide the 1A Northern West 8-Man League championship and top seed in postseason.
“The kids know what’s at stake and they’ve known it all along,” said Warriors head coach Phillip Bryant. “We tell them one game at a time like every coach does, but the bottom line is they all look to VC. As coaches we do the same, but we’re a little more cautious with our preparation to make sure when we get to the VC game, it means something. But the kids are ready, they’re focused, they know what’s at hand.”
The Warriors will travel just over an hour to the former Storey County silver boomtown in Nevada and mine for their second victory in three years against the Muckers. Both teams have won as visitors the last two seasons.
Warriors senior and four-year starter Corey Huber has played against VC three times and knows what the road environment will be like heading into the 1 p.m. kickoff.
“It’s good,” Huber said. “There will be screaming parents, they’ve got some loudmouths, but it’s fun. Their whole town shows up, our fans will be there and they’ll stand around the field. There’s a parking lot above the field where people watch, it’s just a battle, one of the best games of the year.”
Once the game starts, both teams know each other well, having scouted and filmed several contests throughout the season.
Bryant has coached three times against the Muckers and each game has been decided by six points or less.
“They’re very predictable,” Bryant said. “They’re gonna run Evan Breckenridge right at the A-gap and they’ll send Wyatt Pieretti on a counter to the opposite side and then they’ll run a boot. That’s what they do, nothing fancy, but we’ve gotta be able to stop it.”
Byer, a starter at center or guard and defensive tackle, sees the VC offense purely from a lineman’s standpoint. And says the Muckers are a lot bigger than the Warriors, something Whittell has encountered throughout the season.
“I’m the biggest at Whittell, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds … dang, that’s a shame to hear that number … but VC has a bunch of big kids,” Byer said. “They’ve got three chunky dudes who are about 250 each and a guy that can run at us and another that can run around us.”
But Bryant believes his offense and his three main ball carriers will give VC a dose of “tough to handle.”
Quarterback Isaiah Womack has rushed for 1,123 yards and 16 touchdowns while also completing 40 of 55 passes for 647 yards. He is averaging over 20 yards per carry.
Dalton Warswick has 852 yards and 12 touchdowns on 80 totes. The junior rushed for a 98-yard touchdown last week that broke Nevada’s 8-man record for the longest run from scrimmage set by Coleville’s Jason Peter in 2008.
Huber has gained 808 yards and 18 TDs on 59 attempts. He’s also a threat as a receiver and kickoff and punt returner.
“Our backs are three of the best backs in the division, not just in our league,” Bryant said. “Our O-line does its job. We’re good. We’re confident. I think we can give them some problems. I like our chances.”
The Warriors (7-0, 5-0 1A Northern West) with a win would clinch a share of the 1A North West league title but would still have to beat Smith Valley (5-2, 3-2 1A Northern West) the next week to finish an undefeated season and win league outright.
“Saturday is a big game for us,” Huber said. “It’s a normal high school game, but it gives us home field advantage in playoffs. If we lose we have to go away for playoffs. If we win, we might get two home playoff games. And this right here is for the league championship pretty much. We have Smith Valley after this, we can’t take them lightly, but this is the biggest game we’ve played so far.”