Features | Friday Night Drive

Sterling sets tone on the ground in Week 1

Sterling’s Antonio Tablante (left) and AJ Kested celebrate a score against Lakes Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.

As with most football teams, the Sterling Golden Warriors strive for a balanced offense. But like all football teams, they’re happy to alter a game plan to take advantage of what works.

Case in point: in Sterling’s 40-6 Week 1 win over Lakes, the Warriors ran the ball far more than they threw it, and it was because of their dominance at the line of scrimmage.

Sterling consistently won the battle in the trenches all game long in the season opener, opening holes and providing plenty of running room for a ground game that produced 238 yards on 27 carries – good for 8.8 yards per carry – and four touchdowns of 19 yards or more.

“We really opened up those holes, and our backs knew exactly where to run, and they ran right through them. They hit the holes and ran hard,” lineman Lucas Austin said. “We were really running the ball well. We didn’t have too many attempts, but we had a lot of yards.”

Senior quarterback Kael Ryan was the best example of that. He ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries, an eye-popping 27.6 yards per carry. His two TD runs covered 55 and 68 yards.

JP Schilling had eight rushes for 55 yards and touchdown runs of 19 and 4 yards, and Antonio Tablante tacked on a 20-yard scoring scamper in the second half.

The success justified the fact that the ground game was the basis of the game plan against the Lakes defense, and set the tone the Warriors were looking for.

“We were pretty determined to run the ball either way, if it was working that well or not, basically just shoving it down their throats. We wanted to show that we’re not a team to play around with,” lineman Troy Hernandez said. “It felt amazing. I got to use a few moves that I thought weren’t going to work, and it was really fun. It was exciting to go out there and just tear it up.”

The thing that impressed coach Jon Schlemmer most was the ability of his players to take all the things they learned during summer camp and preseason practice and translate it into a game situation under the lights – and do it right out of the gates in Week 1.

“Once the lights turn on, the fundamentals and the little things you stressed throughout camp sometimes kind of just dissipate because kids get amped up, but I thought our kids did good stuff with that last week,” Schlemmer said. “We talk about our footwork in the back half or our offensive line staying on doubles, things like that, we felt we really did a good job, and the film kind of showed that.”

Not that it was a perfect game – nor were the Warriors expecting that in Week 1. Rather, the linemen and the backs, and even the receivers with their downfield blocking, gave the effort necessary to overcome those inevitable Week 1 mistakes.

“It was really about going 110% the whole time,” Hernandez said. “We made mistakes – if you watch the film, you can see all of us on the line made at least one mistake – but we went 110% doing it, and gave great effort. We just brought intensity and a lot of physicality to the field.”

And that’s exactly what the Warriors wanted to do in Week 1: put a dominant, physical display in the run game on film for all of their future opponents to see as they go through the season.

“We always think we have to win up front. If we do that, we have a good chance to win the football game,” Austin said. “We were able to do that last week, and that’s what we want to do to everybody.”