Wildcats look to suppress Spring’s high-flying passing attack

Wildcats travel to face 17th Ranked Spring tonight

Junior+Reed+Odell+dives+over+the+goal+line+for+a+touchdown+in+the+third+quarter+against+West+Brook.

Adeen Rao

Junior Reed Odell dives over the goal line for a touchdown in the third quarter against West Brook.

Adeen Rao, Editor

Tonight the Wildcats will travel to the Planet Ford Stadium to play the Spring Lions in what has been the most anticipated game of the season so far. The Lions are currently ranked 17th in the state according to Maxpreps, the Wildcats current head coach Sam Parker used to coach there, and the Wildcats are trying to fend off their first regular season losing streak since making the jump to Division 6A.

Spring is led by Utah State commit quarterback Bishop Davenport, who is basically the focal point of their offense. Last week, the Wildcats saw a hard-nosed running team in West Brook, but the Lions bring a completely different philosophy to the table. You will often see them with an empty backfield and five wide receivers, and almost all of their plays are through the air. If they run the ball, it’ll often be through an option play where there is a wide receiver in motion, and Davenport either hands it off to him or keeps it and runs. Last week, senior Kale Berter was tasked with containing the quarterback Bryce Anderson; this week, it’ll be senior Jesus Castanon who will take on the same role as spy. As far as the aforementioned motion that Wildcat fans will often see from the Spring wideouts, that’ll be the job of defensive ends like seniors Cayden Stegall, Tyler Torres, and Jared Durrett. Defensive Coordinator Scott Herman most likely will push a lot of players back in coverage, but it will be interesting to see how his defense handles covering five separate wide receivers at the same time.

“Most of the time the motion serves as eye candy,” Berter said. “Since they pass a lot, there’s going to be a lot of chances for interceptions. We definitely are gonna look to get some defensive touchdowns.”

Spring prides itself on it’s defense. Last season, their defense was exceptional allowing only 16.7 points per game, and they will ride into this game tonight having just shut out Klein Oak in a 49-0 rout. Wildcats offensive coordinator Jim Woodard and Parker are known as some of the most creative offensive minds in the state, and they are going to need a lot of that creativity and that starts with finding out how to turn the tide as far as running the football is concerned. Spring has a streak of not allowing a running back to pick up more than 100 yards in a game that dates back to September 7th, 2018. Essentially, the Wildcats are going to most likely need to rely on the passing game to open up the running game, not the other way around. Last season, senior tailback Richard Rodriguez Jr. was basically a lock to pick up 100+ yards, but this season, he hasn’t been able to yield similar success. This isn’t fully the fault of him as the offensive line is a focal point to a back’s success, and the offensive line features two sophomore linemen that are still gaining their footing. Additionally, Rodriguez does not have the luxury of having senior Sima Weaver help distribute the load of snaps at tailback due to Weaver’s lingering hand injury. Look for Woodard and Parker to run more plays that see junior wide receivers Chase Lovick and Espen Ramos take handoffs in the forms of jet sweeps as runs to the outside that avoid the Lions defensive line seem to be more productive. As a whole, the wide receiver unit has a lot of pressure on them for this one. Senior Zach Fields has shown he is a very reliable target in terms of making big plays with eight catches for 285 yards, four of which are touchdowns.

“We are definitely going to look to run the ball more to the outside,” Rodriguez said. “We are going to have to trust our O-line, to help us push the ball forward.”

Obviously, all eyes remain on the quarterbacks this game, as there has not been a known decision as far as who is the starter, even though junior Reed Odell is getting significantly more snaps than sophomore Lane Stockton. Stockton continues to get snaps when Odell struggles. Defensively, the Lions are about as good of a measuring stick as the coaches will have as far as judging their two signal callers, and it will be interesting to see how they perform.

The biggest weakness for this Spring team, which has lead to teams being able to put up a good fight in the past without having the best game statistically, was via the special teams game. Spring does not have a good kicker or punter, and the Wildcats not only have a good punter in sophomore Hayden Winsor, they have a very fast returner in junior Chase Lovick. Lovick told me the Wildcats have added various punt and kickoff return blocking setups since last Friday’s game against West Brook.

This is most likely going to be the Wildcats toughest test all season, with a lot of history at stake. Can the Wildcats avoid their first losing streak since 2016? Can the Wildcats bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in Beaumont? You’ll find out tonight @ 7 PM Central.