The last time the Wes-Del Warriors (1-5) stepped onto the Monroe Central football field to face the Golden Bears (2-4, 0-1) almost two years ago, the result was a 55-0 defeat.
Coaching changes, new football facilities and declining to play in a conference this season couldn’t change the outcome of a 27-0 loss to Monroe Central on Friday. Within the margins, there’s momentum with the program that the Warriors can be proud of.
The Golden Bears received the opening kick, and promptly marched right down the field for a touchdown. After a three-and-out from Wes-Del, Junior Fullback Jeremiah Ullom took a handoff 69 yards to the end zone to put Monroe Central up 14-0. Head coach Matt Nuckols wasn’t surprised that it was the ground game that got the Golden Bears going.
“We knew that they [Monroe Central] were big up front, we knew that they had some bruisers,” Nuckols said. “The first couple of drives, we weren’t there.”
It wasn’t a great start for the Warriors. Past teams may have punted on the game with over 8 minutes left in the first quarter. Senior Wideout and Safety Trey Adams and the team have adopted a mentality that not only carried them through this game, but also moving forward.
“[It] was a rough start but you just got to focus on the next play,” Adams said. “That’s our mentality here at Wes-Del…Don’t worry about what happened in the past, you can’t change it.”
The reality is the players who put their bodies on the line every Friday night can’t change the past. They can only focus on what’s right in front of them.
For the next 41 minutes and 21 seconds of the game, that’s what they did. It wasn’t pretty, but if just a few plays went the Warriors’ way, the game could’ve taken on a completely different narrative.
In the second quarter, Wes-Del recorded back-to-back sacks that set the Golden Bears offense faced with a 3rd and 30. A completion over the middle to senior Brylen Case gave them a first down and kept the Warrior defense on the field.
Later that drive, the defense forced a fourth and goal. That’s when Junior Lane Wilson found another Ullom brother, Justus, for a score. Nuckols believes that the more his players get put in those types of situations, the more successful they’ll be because of it.
“I think for us, we just have to continue to work with these kids and give them more experience, we’re still pretty young,” Nuckols said. “The more they play, the more they work, the more they are in the film room and really grinding on things in practice, that stuff will start to take care of itself.”
After a fumble recovery by junior Jonah Whitworth, the Warriors found some success moving the ball on offense in the third quarter. They converted three first downs and controlled the ball to get to the red zone. It’s a testament to that ‘next play’ mentality.
“I’m proud of my guys for responding. We preach that ‘next play’ mentality all the time in practice, all the time in games, and we responded, and saw that later in the game,” Nuckols said.
When someone hears the phrase ‘next play’, they might roll their eyes at how much-coach speak that is. There is a different feeling when you can clearly see that team using that mindset every snap, and people are noticing. Adams hopes that can continue for the last four games of the season and beyond.
“It doesn’t matter what the score says, we’re going to fight until the very end. We’ve got some young guys and we’re trying to preach that,” Adams said. “I love the game…I’m a senior, it’s my last year…I want to help build what’s happening at Wes-Del. We want this to be a football school, so I want to be a part of that.”
The Wes-Del football team added 12 kids from last year, where they had low numbers. During the season, they’ve picked up three more players. After a slow start for the program, they’re seeing changes that make them believe that, in Nuckol's words, “good outcomes” are on the way for the program.
In a way, the outcome of Friday’s game can be viewed as a microcosm of Nuckols and his tenure at Wes-Del so far.
A slow start, with signs that brighter days are ahead for the Warriors.
Contact Caleb Zuver with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @zuves35