Hardin-Central Coach Kirk Thacker is not quite sure what to expect as his Bulldogs host the Southwest Wildcats. He is sure that the Wildcat team he faces is a much improved one than the squad the Bulldogs rolled over 72-0 last season.
New Wildcat coach Ken Boatwright comes to Ludlow after stints in Wyoming and Kansas. His Wildcats have split the first two games of the young season.
After pounding South Nodaway 56-0 in a game called at the half to start the 2009 campaign, Southwest battled a tough South Holt team in Oregon before falling 58-20 last week.
“They got a big win the first week and that gave them some confidence and they played South Holt pretty well,” Thacker said. “He has his team wanting to play and in the past they looked like they didn’t. We can’t look past them and I told the boys we need to focus on them and be prepared.”
Boatwright has his Wildcats running a new offense this season and Dylan Haney has been the main cog by rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts last week, and gaining 135 yards on 13 carries in the one half of play against South Nodaway.
“We don’t know a lot about him,” Thacker admitted. “They do run a Pistol offense that we’ve seen before so they will throw a little bit. Last couple of years, it’s all been run so we need to put a little pressure on them.”
The Southwest passing game struggled last week as quarterback Justin Jones completed just 2 of his 24 attempts for 55 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Thacker feels his defense has picked up the pace as far as putting pressure on the quarterback.
“We don’t have a lot of size up front, so we’re trying to rely on our speed a little bit more,” he said. “We got our third sack of season last week, and if I remember right we didn’t get our third sack last year until the fourth or fifth game.”
Thacker’s team fought the injury bug in an opening week loss, but the offense got well in last week’s 46-36 win at Stewartsville. Chris Wilson’s 260 yards rushing helped spark the offense, but Thacker added that having fullback Randy Estenbaum back at his usual spot was the key.
“The best thing we did was to get Wilson’s blocking back back in front of him and we got some corners,” he said. “That was probably the key change. The line in front of him is excited to block for him, too. They have the confidence in him knowing they can have some big games if they just get out in front and block.”
Although his freshman-dominated defense struggled at times especially in the second half last week, Thacker feels they will continue to improve.
“We’re still a very young team,” he explained. “It’s going to take some time, but they’ll get better each week and it should pay off for us in the future.”