By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
HENNESSEY, Okla. — —
It’s been almost a year since Hennessey ended Vian’s 2011 season in the 2A quarterfinal round, another stepping stone in a path to a second straight state championship for the Eagles.
Two days short of the first anniversary of his team’s 18-7 win in last year’s state playoffs, Hennessey coach Rick Luetjen figures the Wolverines have been waiting for a chance to return the favor.
“I know they’ve had this date circled on their calendar ever since we finished playing with them last year,” Luetjen said. “They were young last year. They only played about three seniors, so we knew they’d be back in this situation, and our goal was to get ourselves back to it.”
Both have, and will play, again, in the 2A quarterfinal round, this time in Vian on Friday night.
“Of course (they’ll want revenge),” said junior linebacker Carlos Torres, the Eagles’ leading tackler with 101 stops. “Who wouldn’t? We just have to be prepared and be the most physical team out there.”
Which might be even more difficult than it was a season ago, when Vian was the only team to both hold Hennessey to less than 20 points and play the Eagles within 11.
Most of that team is still in uniform after returning all but three key players.
“They’re a year older,” Luetjen said. “They’re a year bigger, a year stronger, a year faster, and they should be better than what they were last year. It’ll come down to who can fight the longest come Friday night.”
“Fight” might be the appropriate metaphor. Both teams are focused on running the ball and stopping the run, averaging more than 200 yards on the ground apiece, the only difference being Vian’s tendency to run from the spread instead of Hennessey’s off-set I-formation.
As Luetjen put it, both teams are bullies, and on Friday, Vian’s St. John Stadium will be their schoolyard.
“That’s our whole motto,” Luetjen said. “We want to be the bully. If we’re not the baddest dude out on the field, we know we’re probably going to lose the football game.
“Vian’s really similar to us as far as what they like to do. They like to run the football. They’re not a real big passing team, even though they can throw it. They’re all about trying to be physical, trying to be the bully out there, too. Just like we are.”
Levi Hill, Hennessey’s leading rusher, enters the game coming off his best performance of the season, ripping upset-minded visitor Washington for 283 yards and three scores on 23 carries in a 54-21 win.
Hill’s next test likely will be more difficult against a Vian defense that hadn’t surrendered more than eight points until its 76-26 playoff win against Kansas last Friday.
“They don’t have the hardest schedule in the world, but they do have a pretty good defense,” Hill said. “We’ve just got to play as hard as they do, and harder.”
Which goes back to which team is the bigger bully, an area Luetjen is comfortable judging.
“Oh, we are, no doubt,” Luetjen said. “I’m not worried about it at all. I think our physicality will be something they’re not used to. We’ve played in some tough games this year, we’ve had to be physical this year. Our kids have had to go four quarters several times, and they haven’t had to go four quarters all year.”