Prep Football

Williamsburg primed to keep rolling with Gage Hazen-Fabor back

State's leading rusher gives Raiders explosive potential

Running back Gage Hazen-Fabor is handed the ball by the quarterback during football practice at Williamsburg High School on Monday, August 6, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Running back Gage Hazen-Fabor is handed the ball by the quarterback during football practice at Williamsburg High School on Monday, August 6, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
/

WILLIAMSBURG — Gage Hazen-Fabor is productive, to be sure.

Overproductive?

“We probably used him more last year than we would like to,” Williamsburg football coach Curt Ritchie said. “Maybe we got a little too one-dimensional.”

That one dimension is awfully, awfully good.

A 5-foot-8 bundle of muscle, Hazen-Fabor led the state in rushing with 2,388 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, and the Raiders rode him to the Class 2A state finals.

Williamsburg barely got into the playoffs, qualifying as one of two 2A at-large squads after a third-place district finish. But the Raiders caught fire in the postseason.

They went to Monroe and knocked off PCM, then shocked Mount Vernon — which had beaten them by four touchdowns two weeks earlier — in Round 2.

At the UNI-Dome, the Raiders topped Union Community (the other 2A at-large team) in the semifinals before falling short in the final against Waukon.

Hazen-Fabor carried the ball 292 times last season, an average of 22.5 per game. That’s a lot, but not excessive. And he’s certainly not complaining.

“I’ll carry it as many times as it takes,” he said, “and I’ll get as many yards as I can.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Ritchie is in his 26th season. He started his career at English Valleys, and Williamsburg has been a constant success since he arrived. He has coached a number of high-yardage backs, and Hazen-Fabor might be the best.

“He’s so explosive,” Ritchie said. “Those first 10 yards ... he’s the most explosive kid I’ve had.”

The Raiders bring back both of Hazen-Fabor’s top blockers, tackles Clayton Thurm and Clayton Kempf.

“They tell us to hold our blocks,” Thurm said. “If we can give Gage a two-second block ... boom, he’s gone. The bigger the hole, the more space for him.”

Thurm is a returning all-stater. The 6-6 Kempf has gained about 30 pounds since last season, and both are around 260 now.

“(Kempf), he’s good,” Thurm said. “He’s been wanting to take a big step from last year. He’s my lifting buddy, and it’s obvious he’s put in the work.”

There are holes to fill, though. The interior offensive line has graduated. So has the majority of the defensive front and last year’s starting quarterback.

Other key returners include running back/linebacker Mathyan Powell (who rushed for 533 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 56 tackles) and wide receiver/defensive back Kaden Wetjen, who was a ball hawk defensively. Wetjen intercepted three passes (one for a touchdown) and recovered three fumbles.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association reshuffled the district assignments, and Williamsburg is the only member of Class 2A District 6 that reached the playoffs last season.

That doesn’t mean the schedule is easy. It’s brutal before the district season starts. West Marshall, Western Dubuque, West Branch and Iowa City Regina were a combined 30-11 last season.

“This is the toughest non-district schedule we’ve had for sure,” Ritchie said. “We wanted it strong by design. Maybe we overdid it.”

Ritchie will be careful not to overdo it with Hazen-Fabor, especially early.

“We hope to be a little more balanced,” Ritchie said. “Not just run-pass, but getting the ball into other kids’ hands.”

Williamsburg, at a glance

Coach: Curt Ritchie (26th year overall, 183-79)

Last year: 10-3 overall, Class 2A state runner-up. 5-2 Class 2A District 5 (3rd place)

Top returners: RB Gage Hazen-Fabor (sr.), RB/LB Mathyan Powell (sr.), WR/DB Kaden Wetjen (sr.), OL/DL Clayton Thurm (sr.), OL/DL Clayton Kempf (sr.)

Key to making the playoffs: The other five teams assigned to Class 2A District 6 were a combined 16-31, which is both good and bad for the Raiders. Good, in that they have a good chance to run the table from late September on. Bad, that, if they don’t, it could be harmful to the RPI. Keeping Hazen-Fabor — the state’s leading rusher last year with 2,388 yards — healthy and fresh is essential, and a complementary passing game would be a nice addition.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Games to watch: Williamsburg is a heavy favorite to capture the 2A-6 title, and the Raiders’ premier games come before the district schedule. They’ll be sternly tested in all of their four non-district games, against West Marshall, Western Dubuque, West Branch and Iowa City Regina. All but the West Branch game are at home.

Schedule

Aug. 24 — West Marshall

Aug. 31 — Western Dubuque

Sept. 7 — at West Branch

Sept. 14 — Iowa City Regina

Sept. 21 — at Davis County

Sept. 28 — at Mid-Prairie

Oct. 5 — Central Lee

Oct. 12 — at Albia

Oct. 19 — at Eddyville EBF

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.