Waukomis experienced the “next man up” mentality before the 2018 regular season even began.
Just before the Chiefs (0-0) season opener Friday night at Snyder (1-0), sophomore running back Wyatt Felber separated his shoulder. He will be out two-to-four weeks.
“That really hurt,” Waukomis head football coach Koy Hughes said Wednesday.
Hughes said Felber was a part of the team’s two-back attack, which also featured junior back Devin Wagner. Felber is the between-the-tackles, bruising back, while Wagner is the speedy, around-the-edge runner. Wyatt also plays linebacker for the Chiefs’ defense.
In Felber’s stead, Waukomis has seen two men step up — senior wide receiver James Busbee and senior defensive end David Hennessey.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” Hughes said. “You just hate to lose somebody like that this early in the season, especially someone who was playing as well as Wyatt was.”
The rest of the Waukomis offense is doing well. Senior Matt Buck will embark on his first full season as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback. Buck was named starting quarterback in Week 3 of the 2017 season following an injury. He recorded 504 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, while throwing more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Matt Buck is playing really well at the quarterback position,” Hughes said.
Sophomore Cooper Wieden is stepping up in the receiving game, Hughes said, along with Busbee and Enid transfer Beau Beasley, who steps in at the X-receiver spot. While the Chiefs have the passing game at their disposal, how they wield it is dependent on what Snyder’s defense gives them.
“If we don’t have to throw the ball, we’re not going to,” Hughes said.
The Chiefs offense averaged 25 points per game through in 2017. Waukomis is deep at most offensive positions, Hughes said. So whatever card is dealt to Waukomis, Hughes will feel comfortable at the table.
“When you’re playing a good team like Snyder, you have to take what they give you,” Hughes said. “But as far as what I’m comfortable with ... I’m comfortable running or throwing the ball.”
Snyder’s defense surrendered an average of 20.1 points per game last season. In five of their 12 games, the Cyclones allowed eight points or less.
The stout defense continued its dominance in 2018, with a 66-8 win against Ryan last week.
“Our (offensive) line definitely has to communicate and stay on the same page because (Snyder’s defense) is going to stunt a lot,” Hughes said.
The Waukomis offensive line will rely on its veteran experience in guys like Wieden and Evan Carter. Snyder’s defense is young, Hughes said.
“I think we can wear them down,” he added.
Waukomis’ defense still is trying to figure out its groove as far as scheme is concerned. The Chiefs have been experimenting with different defensive fronts since the offseason, such as 3-1 and 3-2.
In the offseason, Hughes said the defense was going to focus on being more aggressive in 2018. Last season, the defense allowed 35 points per game. Toward the end of the season, the Chiefs allowed just under 40 points per game.
“We’re trying to figure out our best bet,” Hughes said. “We haven’t decided where we’re going to go.”
While the verdict is still out on the preferred defensive front, Hughes said he’s pleased with how his frontline has been playing. The defensive line will feature Wieden, who weighs around 275 junior defensive tackle Gage Ritz, who weighs 265.
“We’re definitely playing better and we’re ready to go,” Hughes said. “I know we have a tough test this week because Snyder is a really good ball club.”
To make its Week 1 test even more challenging, Waukomis is opening its season on the road, just under three hours hours away. Hughes said he’s never had this long of a road trip in the first week of the season. With Waukomis having school on Fridays this year, it makes it especially difficult.
Snyder has home field advantage, but Hughes said once the lights come on, the advantage goes out the window.
“Everybody just wants to play football,” he said.