Prep Football

Williamsburg football has new turf and similar playoff hopes

Raiders got in first practice before storm hit Monday

Williamsburg's head coach Curt Ritchie calls the team in after warmups for their Class 2A prep football state semifinal
Williamsburg's head coach Curt Ritchie calls the team in after warmups for their Class 2A prep football state semifinal game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

WILLIAMSBURG — The football season officially began shortly after sunrise Monday for Williamsburg.

The Raiders’ wakeup call had them at the field at 6:30 a.m. to kick off their season.

“We’re a morning team, Williamsburg Coach Curt Ritchie said. “Get work done early.

“Our enthusiasm and excitement have been top notch. This team is just excited to get back together and has great chemistry so far.”

Programs from across the state opened fall sports with the first official day of practice Monday. Williamsburg’s morning workout was one of the few to be held in the corridor, because many were canceled due to storms that ravaged parts of the area.

“It felt really good, getting the guys all together,” said Levi Weldon, the Raiders’ leading passer and tackler last season. “We have a lot of talent this year.”

The Raiders have plenty to be psyched about for this season. In addition to the strong nucleus from a team that went 8-4 and reached the state semifinals, the school completed stadium renovations that included an eight-lane track, ticket booth with signage and sharp-looking FieldTurf.

Weldon said the new surface could produce faster play. Senior Riley Holt said the Raiders are ready to put on a show for everyone that comes to see it.

“It was great,” Holt said. “We’re fortunate enough to get nice stuff like this. We get a chance to use it this year. It’s beautiful. It looks like something out of a movie.”

Ritchie noted that the surface has multi-faceted benefits. It helps marching band, physical education classes, especially with social distancing efforts and the soccer program.

“It’s incredible to see all the support we have from all the donations,” Williamsburg’s Luke Peters said. “It’s just awesome.”

The Raiders ranked among the Class 2A leaders in various categories, including special teams, interceptions (third with 19) with four returned for touchdowns, fourth in rushing TDs (33) and sacks (23.5) and fifth with 62 total TDs.

Weldon returns with 632 passing yards and 11 scores. Brody Wardenburg returns with 505 and seven. Alex Redden and Wardenburg are the top two in receiving yardage back.

“We’re all excited to get the season going,” Peters said. “Not every state is able to have a season. We’re just making the most of it and getting out there to play football.”

Holt led the Raiders with eight sacks and his 292 rushing yards is the most of any returning player. Weldon had 65 tackles a year ago with 4.5 sacks. Holt had 43 stops.

“We believe this team can compete with anyone on our schedule,” Ritchie said. “We will be young and inexperienced at a few spots but feel the talent is there. Our job is to prepare hard enough to play with great confidence. Is this a Dome team? That is (yet) to be seen, but we believe one thing: by the time playoffs come around, we will believe we can play like a dome team.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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