Preseason look at the Demons
It was hot and humid, but that didn’t stop the Washington football team from kicking off the football season at Case Field on Friday night.
The 2013, 3A state runners-up took the field for its first action against an opponent that didn’t look like a scout dummy or wear the same Demon uniform, for the first time since November, taking on 1A Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont in a scrimmage.
The Demons and Rockets used it as a glorified practice, with each team receiving three sets of 10 plays, then running two drives each in the second part of the scrimmage.
Here are a few observations from the scrimmage:
Senior Jacob Hennigan started off the night in the backfield, and made his mark throughout the entire scrimmage.
Hennigan was finding holes as a running back, but also made two nice catches for touchdowns during the first portion of practice, displaying great versatility that will be helpful for a team looking to open things up a bit more in 2014.
“Hennigan is one of the better athletes on the team,” first-year Demon head coach Garrison Carter said. “We could line him up in the backfield and he’d be one of our better guys back there, and he’s also one of our best receivers. We have him playing a hybrid wing-back/slot receiver, and as you saw tonight, does a lot of things for us. I think he’s going to have a big year this year.”
As for Hennigan, he was just excited to be back on the field.
“We’ve had people saying that we are going to have a down year this year, because we have a lot to live up to,” Hennigan said. “We are doing our best to set the tone early for the whole season, so we have to push ourselves. We’ve been going against ourselves these past few weeks in practice, so we finally got out and finally got some competition against another school before week one, and it felt good.”
Strong up front
It’s nothing new for the normally power-running Demons, but the offensive line, anchored by 2013 All-State left guard Tommy Peterson, was once again dominant on Friday night.
Running backs Joe Smith and Tama Leutele, as well as Hennigan, were finding lots of space to run through at the line of scrimmage, while quarterback Daryn Seibelius was barely touched on the night, and even broke off a few nice runs himself.
“I thought (the offensive line) did really well tonight,” Carter said. “We were without our starting right tackle in Brad Skubal, and we didn’t miss a beat. Running the ball we looked really good, and that’s something where we’ve changed a few schemes from last year, but they know how to run the ball. We had a lot of different backs running through big holes all night.”
Airing it out
Behind Seibelius, the Demons are looking to add another wrinkle to the offense this season, and fans got their first glimpse of a larger passing game on Friday night.
Run and pass plays were split pretty evenly on Friday (a drastic change from 2013), but there were things in the passing game that still have to be
During the first two sets of offensive plays for Washington, Seibelius was spreading the ball around to Hennigan, senior Thomas Bump and junior Jack Giardino, resulting in two passing touchdowns (one to Giardino, the other to Hennigan).
In the third and final set of the first half, Washington let the passing game loose, and two early throws by Seibelius were off the mark and picked off. He recovered during the set and finished it off with a jump-ball touchdown to Hennigan.
While certainly not a warning flag, the Demons are going to have to end the growing pains of the passing game quickly with a highly touted Pella team coming into town this Friday.
“I think that’s something we have to work on,” Carter said. “We preach to get the ball out quickly, and we aren’t impressed by throwing the ball downfield. We’d rather get the ball into our receivers’ hands and have them make a play. That’s something Daryn is still working on, and this was our first time out against live competition.”
It’s an age-old cliché, but one that always seems to ring true in football: Defense wins championships.
While much of the focus with a new head coach is on a revamped offense, defensive coordinator Dave Hoffman fielded a strong defensive unit on Friday night.
Eddyville-Blakesburg failed to get across midfield all night, and the Demons didn’t seem to miss a beat, despite replacing numerous players due to graduation.
“We are going to be good defensively, just because of the defense we run,” Carter said. “Coach Hoffman is one of the best defensive coordinators around and we have a lot of young guys starting to fill some of those holes, and I thought they really grew up tonight, and they have to, with Pella coming here next week.”
The only damper to the night came on the first defensive snap of the scrimmage for the Demons, when top-returning receiver and cornerback Gage Redlinger came off the field with a concussion. His future status is uncertain.
“He will be out this week for sure, and his future status is uncertain,” Carter said in a text message Monday morning. “Obviously with something like this, his health and saftey are far more important than being on the field.”
The Demons will officially open up the season against Pella on Friday night at Case Field. Pella was the only team who handed the Demons a regular-season loss in 2013.