West High senior Blake EalyBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – It didn’t take long to pick up on the central theme for West High in preparation of Friday’s Class 4A playoff opener with No. 5 Bettendorf.
“We’ve heard a lot from the coaches this week about being physical and matching their physicality, it’s a huge thing this week,” West High senior defensive tackle Blake Ealy said. “That is always a big thing for us but it’s huge this week.”
Playing physical football is hardly a new concept at West High, or any program for that matter.
However, when facing a Bettendorf team that has crafted out a reputation as one of the most physical teams in the state, the importance of matching that physicality is amplified.
Last year West High got a good look at just how physical the Bulldogs can be.
Bettendorf controlled the line of scrimmage in both meetings between the two teams last season while outscoring West High 91-38 in two wins, including a 43-18 victory in the 4A quarterfinals.
“Bettendorf has been a team that has dominated us in the past and we expect a similar team to take the field from their perspective on Friday,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said. “We know what needs to be done the question is can you do it against a team like that.”
Bettendorf outgained West High 507 to 152 on the ground and scored 12 rushing touchdowns in the meetings last season.
West High senior Will Peterson
There is more than just a call for more physicality at West High leading up to Friday’s Class 4A opening round matchup with Bettendorf (7-2). There is a different feeling surrounding the fourth matchup with the Bulldogs over the past three seasons.
That feeling stems from an improved West High defense that enters Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Touvelle Stadium allowing 16 points and 255 yards per game.
“I always believed in our defense so I haven’t been surprised with what we’ve done,” West High senior defensive end Will Peterson said. “I’m happy with the way we have been playing this year.”
One of the biggest reasons for the defensive improvement for the Trojans this season has been the play of Ealy, Peterson and the rest of the West High defensive line.
Last year West High allowed 251 rushing yards per game while giving up 5.6 yards per carry.
Opponents rushed for 200 yards or more nine times against West High last season and scored 33 rushing touchdowns.
Thanks in large part to a resurgence up front, the Trojans have cut those numbers nearly in half this season.
West High (7-2) has given up more than 200 yards rushing just one time this season and is allowing 142 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry this season.
“We definitely remember everything we went through last year as a group last year and kind of let that motivate us,” Ealy said. “Last year we were a young and we have grown up this year a lot.”
The West High defensive front will get its biggest test to date from a Bettendorf offensive line that has helped the Bulldogs rank eighth in 4A averaging 267 yards per game on the ground.
West High has seen the Bettendorf offense before.
Now the key is slowing the Bulldog attack lead by a line with a pair of division 1 tackles in Iowa recruit Mark Kallenberger and North Illinois commit Cole Webster.
“They are an offense we have seen,” Hartwig said. “What I like about Bettendorf is they don’t hide anything so you just have to stop it and that is much easier said than done.”
Senior running back Keegan Glaus, a 6-0, 215-pound bruiser is the feature back for Bettendorf and has rushed for 1,029 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
Glaus averages 7.4 yards per carry on the year, nearly double what West High is allowing per rush on the season.
Bettendorf isn’t fancy on offense but they are physical and West High knows that better than most.
“Some of it is smoke but generally they just run their basic stuff,” Ealy said. “You just have to focus on what they are doing and know how to handle their basic stuff and that starts with being as physical with them as they try to be with you.”