116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s about the kids, first and foremost. Let’s clear that up immediately.
They’re the ones who play, they’re the ones who do the work, including in the offseason. Football is a year-around thing, weight training never stops.
So from that standpoint, Williamsburg’s game Friday morning against Central Lyon/George-Little Rock for the Class 2A state championship is about Carson Huedepohl, Derek Weisskopf, Gable Dayton, Kyle Goodell and every other young man on the UNI-Dome field dressed in black and red.
Yet Curt Ritchie admits there is a part of him that is thinking about what a win Friday would mean to his community, his coaching staff, himself. The guy is one of the best head coaches around, been doing it for 30 years, 22 of them at Williamsburg.
There are few programs as consistent as this one. The Raiders have been a playoff qualifier 15 years in a row, won a bunch of postseason games in the 2000s.
But they’ve never won it all, losing in the 2017 2A championship game to Waukon and the 2002 game to Emmetsburg. It’s probably not fair to say anyone deserves to win a title.
But if it is fair to say it, try Williamsburg, try Ritchie.
“I think everybody that’s sort of that competitor, you definitely think about it,” he said. “You want to be the best. You don’t get to where you are with each other if you didn’t have that drive within. I think for me, truthfully, in my 30 years of coaching, I just want one year where I don’t have to see those tears from kids of it not only being over but just feeling like you didn’t get to where you want to be. For once, I want to see tears of joy.”
That’s not to say the coach isn’t appreciative of the situation his team is in. Williamsburg is 12-0, ended 1A finalist Van Meter’s 61-game regular-season win streak, vanquished 3A playoff qualifier Solon, rolled through district play and has won its four playoff games by a combined margin of 171-14.
“It’s already special when you get to know when your last game is, right? You get to play that last week, and not everybody gets to do that,” Ritchie said. “But just one time (pause) ... and this group would be so deserving of it. They are a total team from the fact that they push each other, they enjoy each other. Like I said last night on Twitter, you could practice with these guys all year. It’s a long season, but it seems like it has just flown by because every week they are just so on task.”
These teams are similar in that they’ve rarely been challenged this season, they are part of traditionally strong programs, and they have University of Iowa commits.
That’d be Weisskopf for Williamsburg, a junior linebacker recruit who has 12 touchdowns as a receiver. The Raiders move him around defensively to take advantage of his versatility and try to create mismatches.
“Obviously he has some physical skills that you don’t see out of a kid very often,” Ritchie said. “But truthfully, what makes him different than most kids I’ve coached is just he absolutely strives for competition. He loves to compete. He just seems to get better the more the competition rises. He loves that part of it.”
Senior Zach Lutmer is Central Lyon/G-LR’s big dog, or Lion, in this case, a defensive back recruit who has accounted for 2,694 passing and rushing yards and 37 touchdowns as a quarterback. He had 269 yards rushing and three touchdowns in his team’s 37-14 win over Ida Grove OABCIG in last week’s semifinals.
“It’s one of those things where you can have the best-laid defensive plans out there possible and execute it perfectly, and things break down, and he makes crazy things happen,” Ritchie said. “He is definitely a difference maker and somebody you have to account for in everything you do.”
Ritchie was asked if controlled aggression defensively against Lutmer is what’s key.
“You’ve kind of seen both philosophies throughout the season. Some people really tried to pressure him, then other people tried not to,” he said. “I don’t know if one has been better than the other. But you definitely have seen people run different plans at him. We’ll try to have a good mix.”
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