The West Liberty High School varsity football team kicked off their 2021 campaign Friday in a lopsided matchup against non-district competitor Solon, losing 63-0.
But the Comets also entered the game shorthanded, missing three players including star running back Jahsiah Galvan, who along with Francisco Villegas, didn’t play due to “violations of the school’s Good Conduct Policy,” according to head coach Jason Iske.
Lineman Brady Goody was also on the sidelines due to a knee injury he suffered in practice earlier in the week while four players, Caleb Wulf, Drake Collins, Josh Zeman, and JD Seering, all missed significant portions of the game with injuries. Other playerso were in and out of the game with little things like cramps, breathers, wind knocked out, etc., the coach reported.
“So we started the game short-handed,” he said, noting it didn’t take long to get on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Following the opening kickoff return from Drake Collins, the Comets were unable to find any production on offense, and quickly kicked the punted the ball to the Spartans.
Spartan signal caller Blake Timmons wasted no time putting his team ahead, eluding Comet tacklers and taking the ball 61 yards to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead after the extra point.
“We need to learn from our most glaring mistakes from Friday which were blocking and tackling,” Iske said.
“We will have to go to work and fix those mistakes in the four days we have,” he said, knowing they have another big challenge in hosting Iowa City Regina in their home opener.
Collins peeled himself a nice return following the touchdown, taking the ball 40 yards, with an additional 15 yards tacked on due to a late hit call, the Comets found themselves deep in Spartan territory before proceeding to go three and out, the Spartan defense stepping up to limit the Comets offensively.
Iske complimented the return, noting he only had the kicker to beat. “I felt good about our special teams plan coming into the game including kickoff returns,” Iske said. “We had a good plan and should've had the same success on the opening kickoff, but we missed one key block. We cleaned that up for the second return and Drake was able to get good yards on it.”
On their second drive, Timmons showcased his athletic ability once again, shedding would be tacklers en route to a 52-yard scamper, putting the Spartans on the Comets three-yard line.
Three plays later, Michael Piplio punched it in on a run up the middle, making it14-0 Spartans just six minutes into the game.
On the Spartans next possession, Timmons showed he was more than just a runner, connecting with receiver Sean Stahle for a 39-yard reception. The Comets found themselves training 21-0 and battling typical early season, hot day injuries like cramping, shortness of breath, and general fatigue and after the first quarter.
Fortunes did not change for the Comets in the second period, as following the opening second quarter drive, Timmons connected with Oaken Foster for a 30-yard reception. On the next Spartan possession, Stahle carried the ball 69 yards for a touchdown followed by Timmons finding Grant Gerdin to give the Spartans a 42-0 advantage with still four minutes left in the half.
The Comets were able to put together their most successful drive of the half as they marched the ball down the field to get within the Spartan 30-yard line before the drive stalled and the halftime bell rung.
The second half saw much of the same for the Spartans, ultimately holding the Comets scoreless through the contest, culminating in a 63-0 victory.
Coach Iske touched on the mental aspect of playing a lopsided opening contest. “Mentally, I think we’re okay.” the Comet coach said. “I'm more concerned about what it does for us physically. Those guys who were injured in the game are now trying to get ready to play Friday so we're going to make sure we take care of them as much as possible and still get things done to prepare for Regina.”
The Comets will continue the season Friday as the host Regina at Memorial Field beginning with a 7 p.m. lockoff.
The Comet coaching staff expects a bounce back week, assuming everyone can stay healthy.