The end of the spring season left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Sterling Golden Warriors. They’re eager to find some redemption Friday night.
The Warriors suffered their first Western Big 6 loss in the spring season finale, as United Township rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 47-44 victory.
“We definitely want it from last spring, because of the things that happened in that game,” senior lineman Junior Farnham said. “The way that game went, we knew we could’ve won that game, and maybe should’ve won that game. And coming off a loss last week, we’re definitely going to want to come out and dominate in this game.”
That second WB6 loss – a 38-7 defeat at the hands of Moline on Friday night at Roscoe Eades Stadium – is fresher on the Warriors’ minds, and tasted just as bad.
“I can tell you that our kids are excited about it, probably more so from getting a bad taste last week – we got out butts handed to us a little bit – but it wasn’t for lack of effort; our kids played hard,” Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer said. “So I think even more than last year is last week. I think they’re excited to get back out.
“There are a lot of guys that played in that game last year, and it didn’t leave a good taste in their mouths either. The one good thing about the short turnaround was being able to get right back at it after ending the way we did in the spring. Credit to them, they did a lot of really good things against us. But it’s our job to go out there and figure out how to stop them this year.”
The main weapon UT used in last spring’s win was running back Cayne Smith, who ran for 347 yards and four touchdowns against the conference’s best rush defense. Smith is gone, but a three-headed monster has taken his place: backs Loren Arrington and Johnny Manso, as well as quarterback Matthew Kelly.
Kelly is a dual threat with his arm and his legs, and Damahz Slater is a dangerous target down the field.
“Their running back’s gone, but they still do the same thing offensively,” Schlemmer said. “I think they’re kind of sneaky athletic, and they get to where they’re supposed to be. They maybe don’t have the flash that they had with Smith last year, but their kids still run hard, the quarterback’s done a good job for them, and up front they’re playing well.”
The stakes are different for the two teams. Sterling is eyeing a possible home game in the first round of the playoffs with a win, while UT is looking to guarantee its season continues into Week 10.
“They’re fighting for their lives at 4-4,” Schlemmer said. “We know they’re going to be ready to play their best game, but everybody remembers what happened last year, so we’re excited to go over there and try to play our best football game, too.”
Sterling (6-2) also is doing the same things but with different personnel. A rash of injuries has left the Warriors a bit depleted at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, but it hasn’t slowed them down much.
Antonio Tablante has taken on the role of go-to running back, and Drew Kested, Garrett Polson and Colt Adams have all filled in admirably under center. After missing the first few weeks because of injury, top wideout Carter Ryan is out again with a torn ACL, but players such as Tommy Tate and Jacob Huffman have stepped up.
But the Warriors always have built their success on the big boys up front, and it’s been no different this season.
“In the trenches is key for us, and it starts in the weight room. The linemen are always lifting, never stop with the strength training,” Farnham said. “We’re bullying everybody on the line. We do what we’ve got to do to make the holes. In the trenches, you have to win; that’s the spot where everybody starts playing better. If you do a good job up front, everybody else is going to do a good job, too.”