SIOUX CITY — For the first time since 2014, the East High School football team is 2-0 to start the season.
The Black Raiders crossed one big hurdle already this season when the they defeated Bishop Heelan to open the season. The last time East defeated the Crusaders was in 2014 when the Black Raiders opened the season with a 5-0 record.
While it is too early to compare this East squad to the one that started 5-0, it seems the Black Raiders could be turning a corner in Brian Webb’s second season as the head coach of the team.
Webb has worked on changing the culture at East, which is receiving votes in Class 4A, and growing the participation numbers not just at the high school level, but also the middle school and youth level.
Webb said the 2-0 start is part of the process so far.
“It always feels good to have a good start. I think it’s part of our maturation of a culture, it’s understanding wins and losses and how you have to practice,” Webb said. “Effort has to be number one. No matter how you play, you have to practice at a high level. Getting them to understand that is important.”
Coming off a 38-0 win over a rebuilding West squad, East faces its next tough test to start the season when the Black Raiders host Sergeant Bluff-Luton at 7 p.m. Thursday at Edward Olsen Stadium.
The Warriors have been a thorn in East’s side the past three seasons, defeating the Black Raiders all three times they have faced since the two teams started playing for the first time this decade.
In 2016, Sergeant Bluff-Luton defeated East 38-21. The other two games haven’t been close with the Warriors winning 28-7 in 2017 and 33-0 last season.
In the three seasons that East and SB-L started playing again, SB-L has gone 27-5 and is coming off a trip to the UNI Dome last season. East has missed the playoffs three straight seasons.
But SB-L coach Justin Smith doesn’t see the same Black Raiders squad that the Warriors have handled the past three seasons. He sees a difference in this year’s East team.
“They have good athletes and kids that can run the ball, some of them were on that 4x100 relay team, and they have good size on the line,” Smith said. “The main thing I see, they seem cohesive on the field and the coaches have done a really good job there.”
The Warriors come into the game with a 1-1 record and have played two completely different games this season.
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SB-L, which was playing with plenty of new starters in the season-open, lost its first game of the season 35-7 to a ranked-Lewis Central team. However, the Warriors shutout the Titans in the second half.
Last week against a Harlan team that received votes, the Warriors pulled away in the second half for a 47-27 victory.
Smith said his team had to learn what Friday nights were like that first week with so many new starters on the field.
“We have a lot of talent, we just weren’t quite ready for the physicality and the attention to detail. Last week we took a jump forward but we still have some things to clean up,” Smith said. “Just being disciplined on defense and being consistent. Offensively, be more consistent and take care of the ball.”
The win over Harlan moved the Warriors up to No. 7 in the 3A rankings.
After being held to seven points against Lewis Central, the Warriors offense started to get on track against Harlan.
Quarterback Daniel Wright was 22-of-28 passing for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Carter Schumacher caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and Deric Fitzgerald also had six catches for 72 yards and a score. Wright completed passes to seven different players in the game. Jorma Schwedler, who also rushed for 92 yards, caught four passes and Jacob Imming caught three passes, including a touchdown.
East’s defense has been stout this season, allowing only 13 points and all 13 of those came against Heelan.
West only had 74 yards of total offense against East and Heelan only rushed for 61 yards against the Black Raiders.
However, the Crusaders were able to attack through the air at times against the Black Raiders. Brant Hogue threw for 322 yards in the loss and East doesn’t have an interception this season.
Now East has to face one of the best passers in 3A on Thursday.
“I think (their offense) starts with Wright at quarterback. Obviously he’s a great player. If you give him time, he will pick you apart,” Webb said. “I’ve been happy with our defense overall. Offensively for us, it comes down to execution and we have to execute at a high level. That’s the name of the game for us.”
Casey Blake has thrown for 258 yards and two touchdowns for East this season with no interceptions. Kaige Kellen has rushed for 143 yards and two scores on 21 carries and Kyler Peterson has rushed for 107 yards and two scored on 19 carries. Taejon Jones has two rushing touchdowns.