The playmakers on the Wamego offense might be getting a lot of attention, but the Red Raiders’ defense deserves some recognition as well.
In three games this season, Wamego has allowed just one touchdown, pitching a pair of shutouts and keeping opposing offenses from sniffing the end zone.
Red Raider’s coach Dale Burkholder said the difference between now and when he first came in 2011, is pretty vast.
“The improvement is lightyears,” Burkholder said. “Even though we’ve been good, this year we’re very solid. That’s just those guys up front, the defensive line and linebackers — they’re a stout bunch. The key is speed, and that shows on both sides of the ball.”
As the Red Raiders (3-0) prepare to face Chapman this Friday in Wamego, the focus will once again be on defense, as the Irish were led to their first win this last week by Robert Walsh, who rushed for 240 yards and three touchdowns in a 25-0 win over Marysville.
Burkholder said Chapman (1-2) might have the most diverse offense they will see all season.
“It’s an option attack and we’ve got to account for every option,” he said. “They throw the ball quite a bit, they present a really interesting challenge. It will be the best offense we go up against because it’s multi-faceted.”
Burkholder said the improvements on defense started when arrived on the spring of 2011, and began working with the team that summer.
Although he knew the team needed to be stronger, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, there was a focus on speed. Part of that focus, brought the school to build a sandbox to train in which had the players improving their leg strength by running inside of it.
The results have been effective for Wamego, the defending NCKL champions, on both sides of the ball.
“Speed kills, strength hurts,” Burkholder said. “It’s nice to be strong, but I’ll take fast kids any day. Were not the biggest and we’ll get blocked, but we will come off that block with some speed.”
Burkholder said much of the credit on defense goes to former Wamego head coach John Scoggins, who remained on staff as defensive coordinator. With Scoggins and the other defensive coaches calling the plays on the side of the ball, Burkholder said his prideful defensive unit has responded in a big way.
“We’ve just sort of developed into our own,” he said. “We have a chip on our shoulder and we like to be noticed at Wamego. The puzzle is being put together. They enjoy playing and hammering people.”
Offensively, the Red Raiders have found success despite losing quarterback Marshall Wethington, who graduated to play college ball at Ottawa University. His replacement, junior Kyler Alderson, has fit well for the Red Raiders’ offense, using his legs and still developing arm to lead the passing game.
Burkholder said Alderson is cool in the pocket, and always looks to make the perfect pass. But his ability to run it is what’s making him tough to defend.
“He is a dual-threat,” he said. “We watched that kid since he was a freshman and we knew he was special. Kyler Alderson is a really good athlete in the state of Kansas. Thank goodness I got him to play football.
“Marshall was good. Kyler isn’t as sharp a passer as he was, but Kyler is a really salty runner.”
The biggest challenge for Burkholder this week might be getting his team focused in on the game with all the distractions of homecoming week at Wamego.
Burkholder thinks his guys will be ready for the challenge.
“This is a hungry bunch,” he said. “Come Friday night, they’re hungry, and they’ll be ready to go.”