Think less; react more. Trust the scheme, and your instincts. The big plays will come. So will the wins.
More implicit than explicit, those maxims were a big part of the offseason goals Washington football coach Chad Stadem had for his players.
With the season’s stretch run ahead, and after dominating Class 11AA’s top-ranked Pierre Governors 49-7 on Thursday at Howard Wood Field, the Warriors (5-1) clearly took those goals to heart.
“I think physically they’re believing in what we’re doing. They know what’s expected,” Stadem said.
Considering the purported strength of their opponent, the Warriors might have expected a stiffer challenge against Pierre. Either way, they turned in their best defensive performance of the season by limiting the Governors to 92 total yards. Offensively, Washington’s ground game couldn’t be stopped – amassing 370 of the team’s 469 total yards – and the passing attack posted as many touchdowns (three) as incompletions.
Washington controlled the Governors, and the line of scrimmage, from the outset. The Warriors brought pressure, disrupted throwing lanes, flowed to the ball and, after taking a 20-0 lead entering the second quarter, made the Governors one-dimensional.
“Our defense did a wonderful job tonight. [Pierre] really couldn’t get going, and we put our offense in great spots,” Stadem said.
Pierre’s first three possessions resulted in three-and-outs, and the snap on the Govs’ second punt attempt sailed high to set the Warriors up on the 2-yard-line.
Even if you take away the 34-yard loss from the muffed snap, Pierre’s offense averaged less than three yards a play. Nothing came easy against an aggressive Warriors front, which closed down rushing lanes for the backs as well as Kaiser. The senior quarterback finished 16-for-28 for 109 yards and a score, while adding just two yards on seven rushing attempts.
Chayden Fitzsimmons opened the game’s scoring on a two-yard plunge, a few plays after taking the opening snap 47 yards on a sprint up the right hash. Fitzsimmons would add another touchdown run with four seconds left in the second quarter to put the Warriors ahead 35-7.
“[The offensive line] came out and they were on fire all night,” Fitzsimmons said. “They were creating some huge holes and cutback lanes. Couldn’t give enough glory to them.”
Fitzsimmons finished with 10 carries for 97 yards and two scores, while Josh Thomas added 12 carries for 66 yards and a nine-yard scoring run on a draw play on the Warriors’ second possession of the game.
Quarterback Jack Schelhaas made the most of his limited passing attempts – which were understandable given the Warriors’ rushing success – going 9-for-12 for 99 yards and three scores. The first went to Ty Smith on a 10-yard post in the first quarter. The second was a perfectly placed fade route to Logan Uttecht for a 17-yard score in the second quarter. Logan Eckhoff took a swing pass for a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Reserves for both teams entered the game following the Eckhoff score, which put the margin at its final: 49-7.
Replay: Washington vs. Pierre
Simplicity up front pays dividends
Washington, like most teams this time of year, has its share of injuries. On Thursday, lineman Carson Cypher was carted off with an apparent knee injury.
That position group has had to cycle guys in and out – and into different positions – all season. The Warriors, still, have remained productive – even assertive – in the run game.
Offensive line coach Shawn Flanagan says part of the success comes from a simplified blocking scheme that emphasizes inside zone runs. Before each play, the interior lineman determine if defenders are lined directly across or not. If yes, block the defender back. If not, block toward the direction of the run.
“I tell my guards: If you can count to one, you can play,” Flanagan said, who admitted the reads are more complicated for tackles.
“They have two reads,” Flanagan said.
On Thursday, the inside zone play shredded the Governors.
WHS – Chayden Fitzsimmons 2 run (Seth Benson pass to Ty Smith fails)
WHS – Josh Thomas 9 run (Brock Walker kick)
WHS – Smith 10 pass from Jack Schelhaas (Walker kick)
PIE – Derek Schreiner 18 pass from Brevin Kaiser (Peter Sanchez kick)
WHS – Logan Uttecht 17 pass from Schelhaas (Schelhaas run)
WHS – Fitzsimmons 2 run (Walker kick)
WHS – Logan Eckhoff 7 pass from Schelhaas (Walker kick)
WHS – Tupak Kpeayeh 49 run (Walker kick)
RUSHING: Pierre – Seth Neal 1-4, Isaiah Watson 1-3, Brevin Kaiser 7-2, Zach Fendrich 4-(-7); Washington – Chayden Fitzsimmons 10-97, Tupak Kpeayeh 7-87, Jack Schelhaas 7-73, Josh Thomas 12-66
PASSING: Pierre – Kaiser 16-28-0-109, Peyton Zabel 2-3-0-3; Washington – Schelhaas 9-12-1-99
RECEIVING: Pierre – Derek Schreiner 4-41, Neal 4-17, Jack Adam 2-16, Erin Severyn 2-6; Washington – Ty Smith 4-51, Jenson Amdahl 3-24, Logan Uttecht 1-17, Logan Eckhoff 1-7