WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee football squad is preparing for its third offensive scheme in as many weeks, and at this point, it’s confident it has things figured out defensively.
In week one, Wenatchee faced a pass-happy Eisenhower spread attack engineered by a sophomore quarterback and fueled by rangey wideout Ridge Harmon. The Panthers got torched by the duo, giving up more than 400 yards through the air.
The 0-1 start and the porous defense shook the players’ egos.
“The first game we got hit in the mouth,” defensive mainstay Jakob Stoll said, “and a lot of the guys came in a little overconfident.”
Week two went much better. Wenatchee faced a markedly different offense in Davis, which features dual-threat quarterback Nikhil Lizotte, and responded to the challenge by keeping the Pirates out of the end zone for three quarters. Davis finished the contest with just 261 yards of total offense.
Next on the slate is Moses Lake, which relies on an option attack.
The Panthers, who have had two diametrically opposed defensive showings thus far, are confident the disciplined, speedy unit from week two will return for tonight’s home opener.
“We played a lot faster against Davis than Ike,” said head coach Scott Devereaux, who also coordinates the team’s defense. “And against Moses Lake, I think we’ll see the same thing. Our guys are up to game speed now. It kind of felt like the first half against Eisenhower we weren’t up to game speed.”
The difference boils down to a concoction of chemistry and new starters adjusting to the scheme.
Stoll said the team’s communication was lacking in week one, which was detrimental to its performance.
But after a week of tinkering and spending more time to work out the bugs, the senior nose tackle noticed a big difference with teammates building trust in one another on the field.
“Everyone needed to just settle in,” Stoll said. “We lost a lot of starters from last year and there’s new guys filling new roles. This game (against Davis), a lot of people found out, ‘I can trust the buddy behind me.’ If you can’t depend on the guy behind you, you’ll try to make the play and not do your job. But if you trust the guy behind you, you can do your job and rely on the other person making the play.”
Stoll perhaps epitomizes the defense’s emerging personality perfectly. The self-described “run stuffer” said he gladly takes on double teams because it opens up opportunities for teammates to make plays on the ball.
While the Wenatchee defense doesn’t have the big names, Stoll believes fielding a cast of selfless contributors has its perks.
“It doesn’t have the star power you can say our offense does, but they’re good players and they just come to play every game,” he said. “They’re not amazing. They’re not going to show off their stats or speed, but they just work hard and they’re hard-nosed, which I feel Wenatchee is always known for.”
The Panthers are still forging their identity. At this point, they’re an offensive juggernaut (they lead the Big Nine with 887 yards of total offense) with a defense that appears to struggle against the pass (they’ve given up a Big Nine-worst 668 yards passing).
But last week’s 53-13 blowout victory gave the team plenty of reason to believe in the defense’s ability going forward.
There’s still work to do, but Stoll and company don’t mind rolling up their sleeves.
“We have to earn it and show teams how good we are,” Stoll said. “We can’t expect them to just roll over and give it to us.”