Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Dixon looking to get back to winning ways against Winnebago

Stillman Valley’s Keaton Rauman intercepts a pass in front of Dixon’s Ethan Hays Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

After suffering its first loss last week, Dixon is ready to rebound on the road Friday night.

The Dukes dropped their home game 36-6 to Stillman Valley last Friday night, but after spending a little time looking over their mistakes in that one, they’re ready to turn their focus forward as they visit Winnebago.

The Indians come in on a two-game winning streak, defeating Rock Falls and Oregon the past two weeks after starting with losses to Genoa-Kingston and Byron.

Dixon, meanwhile, looks to get back to its winning ways after starting the season with three wins. The Dukes feel the tough game last week will better prepare them for this week.

“Winnebago, they do what they do, and like Stillman Valley, they’re good at what they do. But it’s all about who comes in and puts the effort in on Friday night,” senior Rylan Ramsdell said. “Seeing a good team prepares us to go into playing another good team, and put our effort more into this Friday than we did last week. I don’t think we really gave it our all last week, so I think this week is our comeback week.”

Stillman Valley was the first run-first offense Dixon saw this season, and the Cardinals were also the first to move the ball consistently on the ground against the Dukes. While Winnebago comes at you with a little different look than Stillman, Dixon knows it has to be ready for the ground-and-pound again this week.

“I sure hope it helps having played that offense last week,” Dixon coach Jared Shaner said. “Stillman obviously is very unique in what they do, but ‘Bago is certainly a run-first team. They give you a little more pro-style, I-back set, sometimes some three-back sets, tight ends and flankers, that type of stuff. But you put the film on and they’ve got some solid kids, and if you’re not prepared and ready to go, they can take advantage of that.”

Dixon’s Aiden Wiseman looks for running room Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 against Stillman Valley.

Senior lineman Matt Warkins also feels like the experience last week will help the Dukes going forward. On both sides of the ball, Stillman was the most physical team Dixon has faced this season; the guys in the trenches feel like they’re going to be more ready to face that physicality this week, now that they’ve gotten a taste of it.

“They’re going to throw it more than Stillman, I think, and I don’t feel like they’re as big as Stillman was up front. I think they’re pretty young up front too, because they don’t have a couple of kids that I remember from last year; they graduated so they’re not back,” Warkins said. “So it’s going to be some new guys, but the same thing we saw last year.

“And on defense, I know they have Will Speltz, their middle linebacker, he’s back, so we’ve just got to watch him and their other outside ‘backer, he’s back from last year too. We can look back, see their tendencies, and then pick up what the new guys are doing. We definitely feel like we can attack some of their weak points.”

Warkins said the line did some soul-searching over the weekend, and every single guy in the trenches feels like they want to get back to their dominant selves this week.

The first three weeks, Dixon had a 100-yard rusher every game; they had two in a Week 2 win over North Boone. Aiden Wiseman leads the way with 458 yards and six touchdowns, while quarterback Tyler Shaner has run for 283 yards and five TDs, and thrown for 282 yards and four more scores.

The big guys up front want to restart that trend this week.

“I think our linemen, we kind of want to make this a statement game, to bounce back and just pound it down their throats,” Warkins said. “We want to get back to the first three weeks, where basically we ran the ball and didn’t have to throw, unless we wanted to. Last week, we had to throw, and we don’t want to be in that situation.

“We just want to get back to having two 100-yard rushers and being successful on the ground, and we just want to dominate up front.”

Coach Shaner believes that’s the best balm for getting over the team’s first blemish, and feels like he has a veteran, experienced group of guys who can turn it around quickly after a less-than-satisfactory performance last week.

“I think so. It was tough going against Stillman Valley, obviously; all-around, offensively we struggled. I hope that this group of guys has pride in what we do,” he said. “We want to be able to run the ball, and we’ve talked about this, to throw it when we want to and not just when we need to. So I think that combination with the guys that we have up front, I believe that they are going to come out and want to show that we can run the ball again, and then set some things up after that.”