For most teams losing your top rusher is a major blow that some teams find hard to bounce back from when it happens.
But not for Leipsic. The Vikings lost top running back Cole Williamson against Arlington in the last game of the season, and he was not available for the team’s first playoff game against Sycamore Mohawk.
But for Leipsic there was no panic. It was next man up, something the team prides itself on developing .
Running backs Lorenzo Walther and Fabian and Juan Pena, filled the void left by Williamson to help produce a big 30-8 win against Mohawk.
“We have preached this to our kids forever,” Viking head coach Joe Kirkendall said. “We push everyone to buy in from the weight room standpoint to practice habits. We give the next guy up reps and the JV guys reps. We try to make sure everyone understands what is going on.”
While the running backs stepped up their game, Kirkendall points to the guys up front that help the ground game.
Also stepping up big for Leipsic has been the Viking defense. Kirkendall said since the defense has really ramped up its performance beginning in the second half of the McComb game, which the Vikings won 28-24, Leipsic held Arlington and Mohawk to single digits in scoring and outscored its opponents 68-13.
“We have been playing pretty good defensively, and guys have been doing their jobs,” Kirkendall said. “We are reading keys and getting to the football really well. We are tackling good and of course it all starts when guys get off the block so that has kind of been the key for us.“
Kirkendall admits that the defense had probably one of its best outings against Arlington but did not see the same intensity against Mohawk.
“We really didn’t give up any big plays and if you don’t give up big plays it forces your opponent to work,” Kirkendall said. “We have created a lot of turnovers the last two weeks, and I don’t know if that will continue.”
“We played really well against Arlington and that was an excellent game. We probably didn’t play as well defensively last week. We didn’t get off the blocks as well and didn’t play with as much intensity so that is something we can improve upon and that is what we focused on and that is understanding your job and your reads. Let’s see if we can put the pieces together one more time.”
The Vikings’ defense will be tested this week when the face the potent rushing attack of Edgerton who Leipsic travels to Napoleon at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Edgerton comes into the contest on a four-game winning streak and in its first playoff game bumped off McComb 44-21.
Edgerton is primarily a running team and features the talented Hunter Prince who has rushed for 1,837 yards and 29 touchdowns. Against McComb, Prince rushed for 171 yards and five touchdowns.
Edgerton comes into the game averaging 39.7 points a contest. In nine of those games, the Bulldogs scored 42 points or more.
“They have a really good running back in Hunter Prince. It seems like he has been around forever,” Kirkendall said. “They are going to run it. They passed it five times against McComb. They have real tights splits and pull everybody. They have wing backs and H backs running through. It is kind of like a rugby scrum more than anything else.”
Because of this Kirkendall said this game will be won in the trenches.
“This is not a game where there are 45 pass attempts,” Kirkendall said. “It is going to come down to the offensive and defensive lines. It is going to come down to who can come off their blocks and create momentum.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs are limiting teams to 16.2 points a game.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.