HENNESSEY, Okla. —
After a strong debut, No. 5 Hennessey’s newly-minted starting quarterback Tony Mendoza has had almost a week to listen up, and to calm down.
“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now,” said Mendoza, now a regular recipient of advice from injured Eagle starter Dylan Hatchel, among others. “Last week, I was a little bit nervous, but now, I’ve settled down, I’m comfortable. I trust all my guys protecting me, and I’ve got to be a leader to them.”
Mendoza, who will notch his second career varsity start 7:30 tonight against visiting No. 11 Chisholm, was solid in his first go-round since taking the QB reins from Hatchel, lost for the remainder of his senior season with a torn ACL.
Mendoza completed 7 of 16 passes for 110 yards, including touchdown throws to Jose Sanchez and Stephen Lott and an interception in a 38-14 win against Tulsa NOAH, the final pre-district tuneup for Hennessey (3-1, 0-0).
“He made some good reads, ran the ball well a couple times,” said Hennessey coach Rick Luetjen. “We didn’t try to overdo him on anything too much, but he seemed a lot more confident this week in practice … We feel really good about where he’s at right now.”
Senior running back William Arndt finished with career-bests in attempts (18), yards (178) and touchdowns (4) against Tulsa NOAH, making the most of more opportunity as Hennessey shifted away from using its quarterback as its primary rusher.
Hatchel had been the go-to running option in the first two games of the season, but with little depth at the position behind Mendoza — who still is a capable ball carrier, having once served as a reserve tailback — the Eagles’ distribution tilted back to what it had been when since-graduated Levi Hill was the team’s clear feature back.
Luetjen said to expect more of last week’s offense as the team focuses on its running roots, an approach he said was planned for district play even before Hatchel was injured.
Arndt didn’t seem to mind the increased workload.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” Arndt said. “I’m running hard. I’m good. I’m confident.”
Chisholm (4-0, 1-0), meanwhile, hasn’t made much effort to hide its ace. The Wing-T Longhorns run the ball on more than 80 percent of their offensive snaps, 126 of their 196 carries coming from senior Bryce Stewart, including a career-high 37 for 192 yards and three scores in Chisholm’s 21-13 win against Alva in last week’s 2A-1 opener.
“Them being Wing-T, it’s more gap sound,” said senior linebacker Abraham Ortega. “Everyone has to do their job. I mean everyone. Eleven. Even the corners are involved in the run game this week. You give them one seam, and that can be a touchdown.”
On the line for Chisholm is an inside track at a 2A-1 title usually reserved for Hennessey, which itself plays to extend a 12-game win streak in district play.
Chisholm at Hennessey
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Chisholm (4-0, 1-0) Hennessey (3-1, 0-0)
Series: Hennessey leads, 19-10
Last: Hennessey won 46-6, 2012
Radio: KXLS (95.7 FM)