West welcomes SE Polk for homecoming
SIOUX CITY – West enters its homecoming game Thursday looking to get back in the win column.
The Wolverines will look to snap a three-game losing streak, the last two on the road, when they host Southeast Polk at Olsen Stadium. Despite the recent slump there are still signs of a program that is moving in the right direction after having won four games the past four seasons total.
“Our guys are playing hard with toughness and giving everything they have,” West head coach Joe Schmitz said. “We are seeing it on film, but we are getting a little beat up and taking a bit of a step back of late.”
West had a pair of turnovers and allowed more than 400 yards rushing in last week’s loss to Marshalltown. The Wolverines didn’t help themselves with a couple of turnovers, but Schmitz said often his players are in position but may be trying to do a little too much which leads to a miscue.
West quarterback Adien Belt leads the team in passing and rushing yards with 1,055 and 537, respectively. He has accounted for 11 touchdowns while Alex Nieman leads the receivers with 22 receptions for 370 yards and six scores.
“(Belt) is a special kid and has some really good skill players around him that certainly helps,” Schmitz said. “He is still maturing as a quarterback with his technique and learning how to go through his progressions and when to take off and run. He is really comfortable running now when he wasn’t earlier in the season. It is difficult on a defense when someone is running a 4.5 at 220 pounds.”
Southeast Polk has lost its last two games including a 22-21 loss to Fort Dodge on a 9-yard touchdown pass as time expired. The Rams are a balanced team with Josiah Cole throwing for 615 yards and Gavin Williams rushing for 672 yards. However, Cole does his fair share of running as well with 463 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns.
“The big thing is how aggressive we play and attack them as we try to match their skill players,” Schmitz said. “Nothing is going to be given to us we have to take it.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran the ball at us the first 15 or 20 plays and it will be up to us to stop it. We have to play physical and go get them, not wait for them to come at us.”
The Wolverine defense has two of the top tacklers in Class 4A with Keegan Uhl sitting second with 68.5 stops while Riliegh Belt has 54.5. West has also been good at taking the ball away with six interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
Schmitz said that players like Uhl and Riliegh Belt as well as Conner Beyer, Omar Maldonado and several others are finding success because of the work they have put in.
“A lot of that is the work in the weight room they did since last year,” Schmitz said. “The biggest misnomer on defense is that it is all about position. It is strength. That is something we didn’t have last year. Now you look at those guys and they are bigger and when they are getting to those spots they are finishing tackles.”
Schmitz said last season he fought against the idea of homecoming week trying to keep his players focused on the game and the task at hand on the field. This time around he is embracing all that comes with a homecoming week of festivities and hoping it is something his team will feed off of.
“There is a lot of good energy that comes with it and hopefully we can use that,” he said. “Our fans have been phenomenal all year and the city has come out to support all (of the Sioux City teams) this season.”