“This senior class has taken it on the chin for a couple years. They want to have a good season, and they’ve got a strong junior supporting cast that’s going to help them get there. That’s why I still hold optimism for this team.”
The Firebirds will face another significant test Friday night when they travel to Fairfield (2-1 overall, 1-0 GMC), a near-unanimous preseason pick to finish second behind Colerain in the GMC.
Junior linebacker Isaac Kolosik said the West players think like their coach in regard to the Firebirds’ potential. But he knows the Indians will present a formidable challenge.
“We’re going to have to play lights out, it’s as simple as that,” Kolosik said. “It’s not some team that you can just come in there and get an easy win on, but I think we have the talent and the toughness to go beat this team.”
The West defense has allowed just 22 points over the last two weeks. Kolosik, who leads the team in total tackles with 19, said the Firebirds needed to be just a little bit better against Sycamore.
“Everybody was flying to the ball, everybody was making plays, but we didn’t make enough plays,” Kolosik said. “We like to set the bar for greatness here, not just good.”
That defense has been some highly regarded pieces, guys like senior lineman Steven Faucheux, junior linebacker Daved Jones and senior cornerback Jeremiah Ross.
Faucheux is out for 4-6 weeks after suffering a spiral leg fracture last week, though Wadl said freshman Tegra Tshabola (6-6, 300) has performed well since stepping into that position.
“The last couple weeks the two things that have gotten much better have been the defense and special teams,” Wadl said. “I really thought special teams was the key to beating Centerville, and the defense has generated nine turnovers.
“We’re just not moving the ball as well as we’d like. We get behind the chains on penalties or tackles for loss, and then we’re off schedule. If you’re going to live behind the chains, you’re going to die an early death.”
Fairfield is coming off a 40-6 triumph over Hamilton. The Indians had been struggling against the pass, but allowed only one 5-yard completion by Big Blue.
FHS coach Jason Krause said the addition of sophomores Jalen Burlew and Jaydan Mayes to the cornerback rotation has been a positive move.
“They’ve really brought some energy to the position,” said Krause, noting that juniors Phil Thomas and Corey Smith also played well at CB against Hamilton. “We’ve tweaked some techniques a little bit, and I think it allowed our kids to play a faster and a little better back there.”
Junior quarterback Sawiaha Ellis was 9-of-14 for 150 yards and a touchdown last week in place of senior Jeff Tyus, who’s been sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Krause said Thursday afternoon that Tyus is progressing, but he wasn’t sure if Tyus would be ready to play against West.
“Our goal is to have Jeff 100 percent healed before I put him back out there,” Krause said.
Fairfield is moving forward after losing senior offensive guard Wade Bullock and sophomore outside linebacker Omar Shteiwi to season-ending knee injuries. Krause said sophomore Brandon Smith (6-2, 230) has been very good stepping into a full-time role at O-tackle.
As for the Firebirds, Krause said their talent level is deserving of respect.
“I agree all day long that they’re a better team than 4-16 over the last two years,” he said. “That’s what makes them a little scary. I don’t see much of a change with them schematically with the coaching change, but I think their kids are playing with a lot of energy. I’m sure they’re grinding their teeth for a comeback after last week’s loss, just like we were after losing to Springfield (in Week 2).”
What: Lakota West (1-2, 0-1 GMC) at Fairfield (2-1, 1-0 GMC), 7 p.m.
Where: Fairfield Stadium, State Route 4 and Stadium Drive, Fairfield
Series: Lakota West leads 9-7, but Fairfield has won the last three meetings, including 10-3 in 2017