Prep Football

Levi Weldon, Kaden Wetjen lead surging Williamsburg football into playoff opener

Raiders bring 5-game win streak into home game against Waterloo Columbus

Williamsburg head football coach Curt Ritchie gives his players instructions during football practice at Williamsburg High School on Monday, August 6, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Williamsburg head football coach Curt Ritchie gives his players instructions during football practice at Williamsburg High School on Monday, August 6, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg football is in a good place right now.

After a rugged non-district slate replete with playoff teams produced a 1-3 record, the Class 2A ninth-ranked Raiders rolled through district play with five resounding wins.

The return of junior quarterback Levi Weldon was a big boost.

“Our routes have been way crisper as I came back,” said Weldon, who will lead Williamsburg into a 2A first round playoff game against No. 5 Waterloo Columbus Friday at 7 p.m. “We have been working on them way more. New schemes, we have been working on. A bunch of other stuff. Focusing on throwing the ball and relaxing in the pocket.”

A broken thumb on his non-throwing hand prevented Weldon from participating on offense through the first four games, but he played through the injury on the defensive side of the ball. With a heavy wrap protecting his thumb for much of the season, Weldon collected a team-high 51 tackles, plus two sacks.

In five games on offense, Weldon has completed 35 of 71 passes for 454 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. Junior Brody Wardenburg, who started the first four games at quarterback, is back at tight end and has three receptions for 31 yards.

“It has been great,” Weldon said. “We can use him to catch. He is a great catcher, blocker. We can use him in many different ways.”

No matter who has been under center for Williamsburg this season, tailback Kaden Wetjen has done his part to take the pressure off his signal callers. The senior has run for 886 yards and averages more than 11 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns.

“The O-line is blocking, for sure,” said Wetjen, who also leads the Raiders with two punt return touchdowns on special teams and three interceptions on defense, one of which he returned for a score. “I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that stuff without the O-line, so kudos to them.”

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Wetjen also has been a valuable pass catcher out of the backfield or while lining up closer to the sideline, evidenced by a team-high 21 receptions for 376 yards and six more scores.

“His speed, you can count on him to get open,” Weldon said. “Just throw the ball up to him. You know he is going to catch it and score. When he gets the ball, it is most likely a touchdown. He has all the right moves.”

For Williamsburg (6-3), the current five-game win streak has generated plenty of cohesion on both sides of the ball and an abundance of confidence. Still, the Raiders know Waterloo Columbus (8-1) presents a challenge more closely aligned with their non-district competition (West Marshall, 3A No. 1 Western Dubuque, 1A No. 3 West Branch, Iowa City Regina) than their district foes, which they outscored by a combined tally of 248-32.

“The big thing that you have to be careful of, that we talk about, is just realizing that this is not going to be one of those,” Williamsburg Coach Curt Ritchie said. “Getting yourself ready for a battle instead of having to play a few plays and then sitting out. Hopefully we are ready. I think we have improved in a lot of areas and this will be good time to test and see where we are really at.”

Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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