WCV's talent-rich senior class takes aim at history
Wed, 08/22/2018 - 12:22 admin
Brandon Hurley email@example.com
On paper, this could be THE year, a perfect storm of victories, records and jubilation. A shot at redemption and a program-defining turnaround.
The West Central Valley program is poised to snap a streak of 18 consecutive losing seasons.
Just three years removed from a winless season and the stars are looking bright for a team that picked up three road wins a year ago.
In fact, the Wildcats have improved their win total each of the last two years, sport one of the area’s top facilities and boast the top quarterback and receiving duo in the state as well as the top returning tackler.
Sprinkle in a newly formed district and there’s a recipe for success just wanting to be cooked up. The moment has been building amongst the sweat, blood and tears - can the Wildcats step up to the challenge and convert?
Fourth-year WCV head coach Eric Addy believes so after witnessing his guys take yet another step last fall. The team returns a significant amount of firepower from a 3-6 unit, and could be in line for something special.
“Throughout our first three years that I’ve been here, we’ve been getting progressively better,” Addy said. “It’s because we’ve constantly been raising those expectations and our guys have been adjusting to our expectations. Understanding what it takes to be winners and to have a winning culture. Do things that winners do.”
The Wildcats’ three wins last season all came on the road, at AC/GC, at Ogden and at Panorama in the season finale, a game in which the Wildcats trailed by two scores. That silver lining right there is a hidden mark of a blossoming team, Addy said.
“My first year here, we weren’t really competitive, but I was super impressed last year because of our wins on the road and in two of them, we came back from 14 points or more to win,” Addy said. Beating Panorama for the first time in 10 years proved to a significant building block leading into the offseason.
“We became competitive against teams we weren’t competitive with before,” Addy said. “The point differentials were small victories that said we are getting better. We were competitive in our losses, too. We were probably only out of games twice last year.”
It may be a tad oversimplifying it, but as the explosive tandem of quarterback Carson Wadle and wide receiver Cole Arnburg go, so go the Wildcats. Wadle threw for 1,866 yards last fall, which was the fourth best mark in 1A while he also threw 19 touchdowns (eighth in 1A). Arnburg led the state in touchdown catches with 12, while also holding down the highest yards per catch average at 31 YPC. He hauled in 22 passes in all for nearly 700 yards.
Getting a more consistent effort on both sides of the ball throughout the entirety of the regular season will be pivotal. Most of Arnburg’s damage last season came in three games as did Wadle’s production, two of which were wins while the other was a narrow, two-point thriller against Madrid. Arnburg produced nearly 500 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in those three match ups against Ogden, Panorama and Madrid while Wadle threw for 792 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 300 yards and six touchdowns in the win over Ogden.
A familiarity with one another has been huge on the field, for Arnburg and Wadle. They’ve grown up playing sports together, it just so happens their friendship shines most on the gridiron.
In the win over Ogden, Arnburg scored four touchdowns while tallying 244 yards on six catches. In the Wildcats’ season-finale, Arnburg caught two passes for a pair of touchdowns and 97 yards, including a touchdown catch 70 yards. In the two-point loss to Madrid, the talented receiver scored three touchdowns, hauling in six passes and 105 yards in all.
Waddle is an athletic marvel on the field - he’s six-foot-three, 200 pounds and can run a mid-four second 40 while still being one of the stronger guys on the team. It’s his leadership that sticks out most to the coaching staff.
“The things you can’t really measure, the intangibles,” Addy said. “He does the right things off the field and he does the right things on the field. He does the things that people want to follow, something I can’t give him.
His parents have given him those things and it’s something innate in him. We wish we could have a bunch of Carson Wadles.”
Arnburg makes the most of his targets from Wadle, as evidenced by his more reception-to-touchdown ration (more than half his catches went for touchdowns last fall) because he’s able to out maneuver the defense with skill and speed. He’s hauled in 17 career touchdown passes, which is one of the top marks in the entire state.
“He’s very deceptive, he’s faster than people give him credit for,” Addy said. “If he walks in the room, you’re just like ‘oh, hey this guy is nothing special,’ but he’s a great route runner. He has long strides and he’s a naturally coordinated athlete.
He can catch the ball. He’s just got a natural gift and you really can’t teach that.”
On the defensive side, the Wildcats return Iowa’s top tackler in Cole Sackett. The senior tallied 128 tackles last fall which included 12 tackles for loss and five sacks, the best mark across all classes. Sackett led 1A by a wide margin, 27 tackles more than Jacob Kathman of Ogden. He was recently selected to the Des Moines Register’s preseason all-state second team, which included players from all of Iowa’s high school classes.
A dedication to his craft has led Sackett to where he’s at. He wasn’t blessed with ton of natural athleticism, but he puts in the extra work that’s needed to become great.
“Just like (Arnburg), he’s not the biggest, fastest or strongest dude, but he’s the most technically sound football player that I probably have ever coached,” Addy said. “If he wasn’t technically sound, he wouldn’t be able to do the special things that he does.
And he’s as tough as nails. He’s one of those small guys that’s a scrapper. He makes no excuses. He just gets after. He’s a strong silent type kid when he speaks up, people listen.”
If the Wildcats can get a more consistent performance this fall from their explosive tandem and on defense, where Arnburg hauled in three picks and Wadle gathered 44 tackles, special things could be on the horizon.
“We became competitive against teams we weren’t competitive with before,” Addy said. “The point differential were small victories that said, are we getting better? We were competitive in our losses, too. We were probably only out of games twice last year.”
The Wildcats are in fact without a few of last season’s key pieces. WCV must replace Brock Wolfe, a multi-threat on offense and a menace on defense. The departed senior was WCV’s top running back and their second-best pass catcher, hauling in 26 catches in nine games for 543 yards. He also tallied the second most tackles with 81, which was the 12th-best total in 1A. William Larsen is also gone, a receiver who led the Wildcats in catches with 28.
The 2018 senior class is hoping to take that torch and carry it even further than those guys did last year. Addy has witnessed this year’s veteran group transform from wide-eyed, inexperienced freshmen grinding through a win-less season to talented and confident seniors who are itching to make a splash.
The significance isn’t lost on his guys, Addy said.
“These seniors want to do something, they want to be remembered,” the coach said. “They’ve always had it in the back of their minds that this is what they’ve been working toward. They want to make history, they want people to remember the 2018 Wildcat football team.
Addy continued, “These guys came in with me and they’ve taken their lumps until now. They’ve learned from the other seniors that set the example and laid the foundation.”
West Central Valley opens the 2018 season on the road Friday, Aug. 24 at Des Moines Christian. The Lions were 1-8 a year ago and only scored in double digits twice.
The Wildcats were re-districted into Class 1A, district 8 for the next two years, which also includes defending state champion Van Meter, Panorama, AC/GC, Clarinda and Mount Ayr. Van Meter was the only program with a winning record last year and have not lost a regular season game since 2016, dating back 26 straight contests.
WCV hosts their home-opener Friday, Aug. 31 against Earlham. District play begins in week five when the Wildcats welcome Mount Ayr into town on Sept. 21.