By DOUG ZALESKI
The consistency of performance game in and game out isn’t where the Wes-Del football coaching staff and players want it to be right now. But with only half of the season complete, they are eager to go to work in their remaining games to find the spark it takes to reverse the trend.
“I love our team, the way we work like crazy and battle,” Warriors coach Brad Hess said. “When we’re clicking and doing things correctly, we’re tough to stop. It’s been frustrating that we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot.
“When everybody does their job, we’re really good and we know that. A few plays here or there, and we’re sitting at three wins. A lot of time you get caught up in wins and losses, but you have to realize you’re the same team. We’re battling, but we’re still young and trying to work out the kinks. Our (inconsistency) is what’s getting us right now.”
That was the case again Friday night as Wes-Del fell behind by double digits in the first 8 minutes, battled to get back in the game, then couldn’t score in the final three quarters and fell 34-8 at home to Shenandoah.
The Warriors dropped to a 1-4 record with the defeat, while Shenandoah improved to 3-2.
Wes-Del gave up two touchdowns to get behind 13-0 before getting a 1-yard touchdown run by Evan Whitesell and a 2-point conversion pass from Eric Harlan to Whitesell to pull within 13-8 with 1:15 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Warriors appeared on the verge of taking a lead when they picked up a first down at the Shenandoah 4-yard line with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. But on the first play from there, Harlan took the blame on a fumbled handoff on a run play and Shenandoah recovered. The Warriors couldn’t bounce back the rest of the game.
“We know in two or three of these games we were within a few plays of making them completely different games,” said Harlan, who also threw an interception. “We’re a lot better than our record shows. We’re giving everything we can on the field, but too many mistakes are getting us beat.”
Wes-Del has a young team with just five senior starters and two more seniors who rotate in as backups. It has experienced some growing pains with the youthful roster, but Hess believes he has a good group that wants to put in the work necessary to become better.
Harlan, a junior, and senior receiver Caeden McClaughry form a strong passing combination that catches the attention of every opponent on its schedule. McClaughry went into Friday’s game ranked second in the state in catches with 32, third with 448 receiving yards, and seventh in yards per game at 112.
An ankle injury in the first quarter against Shenandoah caused McClaughry to miss about 8 minutes of game action as he was held to seven receptions for 42 yards.
“It looks like (the stats indicate) Caeden is getting the ball all the time, but he works his tail off, and we’re going to go to him to make plays,” Hess said. “Eric is a special player, too, and I keep challenging him to do better because has that ability.”
Wes-Del has a tough schedule with its next three opponents - Monroe Central, Indianapolis Tindley and Trader’s Point Christian - having a combined 12-2 record.
Hess is aiming for a more consistent performance from his team in the second half of the season.
“My thing is putting complete games together, making sure everybody is on the same page … offense, defense, special teams,” he said. “We’re a scary team when everybody does their job, when we’re assignment sound. As coaches, we have to get them there, and the kids have to believe it. I think they understand.”