Going against a traditionally high-powered offensive football team, sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Controlling the football and keeping the other team’s offense on the sideline can be key to success on a Friday night.
Newton Senior High’s Cardinals break out a new offensive look Friday in the 2013 season-opener at Norwalk. The gun-rocket offense is not altogether unfamiliar to the Cardinals.
“It’s a combination of elements of offenses we’ve run in the past and a few new things,” said Cardinal head coach Ed Ergenbright. “It all comes down to being able to run the football.”
Ergenbright said Norwalk High’s Warriors are a team that just “reloads” each year. He said the Warrior coaching staff finds the athletes to plug in to voided spots to continue the team’s tradition of being a powerhouse.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Norwalk football stadium.
One major change in Friday’s schedule is the freshman game has been moved to Monday. The freshman game was to have been at 4:45 p.m. Friday, but the excessive heat wave this week, which is stretching into the weekend, prompted the change, Ergenbright said.
“We’ve been practicing at 7 at night all week. It’s still very warm and humid, but when the sun goes down, it gives us some relief,” Ergenbright said. “We’ve shortened practices, staying out long enough to get things done. We’ve been very careful, making sure the kids stay hydrated with plenty of water breaks.”
Ergenbright said the past couple of years Norwalk, which is in the Little Hawkeye Conference but not in the same Class 3A football district as Newton, has rolled up a lot of yardage on the ground against the Cardinals. Last year, the Warriors downed the Cardinals 42-12 in Newton.
“They had some exceptional running backs and a tremendous quarterback, but they are gone. That doesn’t mean it’s a down year for Norwalk. We know them very well since they are in our conference and Norwalk always has good athletes,” Ergenbright said. “So, right now we’re concentrating on us — executing on offense to move the football and finish drives with scores, plus, defensively, we need to pursue the football and wrap up to make the plays, limiting the offense. We can’t give up big plays.”
Ergenbright said last Friday’s intra-squad scrimmage was good for the coaches and the players. With some younger players moving into starting roles, especially on offense, it was an opportunity to simulate live-game action. They played in front of a crowd for the first time.
“In the scrimmages, as coaches, we’re looking to see how the kids execute on both sides of the football and see areas we need to continue to work on,” Ergenbright said. “We did some things pretty well then we saw things we need to clean up.”
Moving the football on the ground is a priority for the Cardinal offense in 2013. Ergenbright said with the personnel the team has this season, the Cardinal offense is working to utilize quickness to run on the perimeter. He said Newton is out to establish a consistent running game this season.
Directing the offense is junior quarterback Tyler Wood, a two-year starter in the position. The entire NHS backfield is younger, stocked with juniors and sophomores. Working at tailback are junior J.T. Thongvanh and sophomore Joseph Banfield, both coming off strong junior varsity seasons a year ago.
Moving from receiver spots to wingbacks are juniors Deonne Harris and Tristan Peters. Harris and Peters have varsity playing experience but not in the backfield. No player in the Cardinal backfield is real big but all have quickness, good speed and run strong with the football.
For any football team to run the football well, it starts up front on the line of scrimmage. At the tackle spots for the Cards are juniors Mason Bowes and Alex Bartels with seniors Will Brock and Jake Huizenga starting at the guard positions. Working his way into the starting center spot is senior Derek Wrage.
“With the exception of Derek at center, our offensive linemen have solid varsity experience. And our tight ends — Dillon Constant, Jordan Travis, Jake Smith and Ryan Thompson — saw varsity playing time last year. We’ve been pleased with the way the offensive line has been working in practices,” Ergenbright said.
Turning to the defense, the Cardinals return the most experience on that side of the football with senior defensive end Ryan Thompson, senior defensive lineman Ray Schroder, senior defensive ends Dillon Constant and Jake Smith up front. Sophomore Zakk Weatherly has worked hard as a defensive interior lineman and junior Jordan Travis can play at defensive end.
Leading the linebacking corps is Brock, an All-District first-team selection. Nick Glotfelty is a senior back out this season and expected to make an impact at linebacker. Senior Joe Wright and sophomore Duncan Lee are backup linebackers.
Senior strong safety Levi Michener was one of the Cardinals’ top tacklers a year ago. Daquan Allen is a senior safety and Colton Hanson returns as a senior starting cornerback. Juniors Jeff Stanton and Mike McCormick are juniors, who are starting for the first time as defensive backs.
“Norwalk is one of the most athletic and physical teams on our schedule. We find out Friday night just where we are in our development. We’re untested in some positions, and Norwalk is going to be a challenge for us,” Ergenbright said. “Our kids seem to be ready to step up to the challenge. We’re ready to get the season started.”