HENNESSEY, Okla. —
Another week, another option offense.
It’s an approach for which the Hennessey defense might be the blueprint for stopping, proving as much recently in its 54-7 first-round playoff drubbing of Crooked Oak last week. The Eagles limited the option-heavy Warrior offense to 131 net yards, a paltry three yards per play.
But the Eagles, and head coach Rick Luetjen, aren’t looking past their next test at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hennessey when their quest for a third straight 2A title comes up against a more effective Washington option that powered the Warriors past Kingston 43-6 in last week’s first round.
During an option-focused portion of Tues-day’s practice, a Hennessey defender missed an assignment, covering the scout team quarterback, instead of his assigned role of containing the would-be Warriors’ pitch back. The play was covered in the end, but against Washington’s crisp execution of the option, it could have been the defensive posession’s death knell.
“That’s gonna get us beat,” Luetjen explained, loudly, to the guilty party. “You have to be patient. You have to be disciplined.”
But while the mistakes that were made during the extensive option-stopping drill were glaring, it was only because they were rare. After facing similar plays all season long, stopping the pitches, handoffs and reads that the Eagles will face on Friday has become habitual.
“Our kids, we’ve faced the option three or four times this year, so they understand the philosophies behind (their) responsibilities,” Luetjen said. “That ‘11 guys doing their job’ cliche that you hear about on defense to be successful, this is pretty much where that came from. Certain guys have to take care of the dive back, certain guys have to take care of the quarterback and certain guys have to take care of the pitch back. If you get a bust anywhere in there, typically you give a big play.”
That same do-your-job-or-else mantra has circulated throughout the Hennessey defense, including senior lineman Cole Shimanek, who had six total tackles against Crooked Oak Friday and recited the same line on Tuesday.
“Since they’re an option team (the secret is) just everyone doing their job,” Shimanek said. “If you break down, they have a good quarterback, and he’ll just run it right down your throat.”
That quarterback is Brock Harman, who works in tandem with a slew of potential ball carriers, including 5-foot-9, 190-pound Zeke Zimmer, the Warriors’ stout and steady senior back.
The job, while less physically strenuous, is nonetheless taxing for the Hennessey defensive backfield, which first has to identify its responsibility before performing it.
“We’ve just got to watch the receiver, make sure he’s not going on a route, and watch the linemen,” Junior Edgar Fierro said, noting the extra read makes for a more difficult task.
The Eagles, in their effort for a quarterfinal bid and another step toward a third consecutive title, face a team with its own lofty streak. The Warriors made their 22nd straight trip to the postseason in 2012.
“The competition has definitely stepped up a lot this week,” Luetjen said. “We told them that (Friday’s win against Crooked Oak) was going to be our last easy one. From here on in, they’re going to be tough competition all the way through.”
Tough or not, Washington still is within the Hennessey defense’s wheelhouse.
“We look forward to teams that like to run the football,” Luetjen said. “That kind of fits our mentality, because that’s what we like to do.”
Shimanek put it in simpler terms.
“I’d rather take that than a passing team,” he said.
Friday’s game can be heard on KXFY (1640 AM).
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Records: Washington (8-3), Hennessey (9-2)
Last Meeting: No recent meeting
Next: Winner faces Vian-Kansas winner
Radio: KFXY (1640 AM)