Game of the Week: La Crosse caps another perfect regular season
Published on -11/1/2012, 10:42 AM
By CONOR NICHOLLL
La CROSSE -- On Monday, La Crosse High School senior Derrick Depperschmidt asked Leopard coach Jon Webster if he had seen the Plainville game on film recently. Webster said he hadn't watched the tape since the Week 4 meeting, a 42-22 road victory for La Crosse. In the contest, the Leopards led 12-0 after the first quarter, a stretch Webster called the best single quarter his team has played in his four seasons as head coach. Senior tailback Levi Morss had the best game of his career with 19 carries for 356 yards.
Depperschmidt told Webster that La Crosse was "a totally different team" against the Cardinals, a sentiment Webster agreed with. Since then, La Crosse has won games 50-0, 56-13, 42-28, 54-6 and 56-8, but hasn't played up to its potential.
"We talk about getting better each week," Webster said. "There for a while, I thought we were doing a really good job the first four or five weeks of the season. The last couple of weeks have been hard to gauge for the simple fact we are getting better assignment-wise, but our emotional level isn't where it needs to be."
In Week 7, the Leopards didn't play well, but still won 42-28 against Sterling. Had they lost, La Crosse wouldn't have captured the district title. The last two weeks, the Leopards played solid in the first quarter and then Webster said they "kind of let off." Last week's contest against Medicine Lodge presented a new challenge for La Crosse because, for the first time under Webster, the Leopards had already clinched the district crown.
"We have enjoyed it, but I think that we have had focus problems with these teams," senior defensive back William Storie said. "It's hard to stay focused."
Still, La Crosse, ranked No. 1 in the Class 2-1A statewide media poll, is 9-0, the sixth time in seven years the Leopards delivered a perfect regular season. This year's team has some holdovers from last year's run to a state runner-up finish, including Morss and senior Kip Keeley. However, some other players have enjoyed breakout seasons, such as Storie.
"I think Week 4 is probably our best game as a team," Storie said. "Now that playoffs are (starting), I think we've got to get back to that."
The Leopards, 38-5 under Webster, will host Brookville-Ell Saline (7-2) in the first round of the playoffs Friday.
"We talk about that going into this week, that you can't just show up and rely on athletic ability," Webster said. "You have to be mentally focused and have it in your mind that you are going to do well and you are going to execute at a high level and you are going to play with great effort."
The Cardinals, a consistent playoff team in recent years, dropped back to 2-7 last season before they rebounded this year. Ell-Saline senior quarterback Garrett Walker has thrown for 1,393 yards with a 15/8 TD/INT ratio.
"They've got a true team," Webster said. "One through 11, I think they are the best team we have played all year talent-wise. We've played against teams that have that one kid who is a stud, two kids who are studs and they have got their share of kids who are really good football players."
Morss leads the Leopards wit 107 carries for 1,255 yards and 13 scores, but played little in Week 8 and didn't play last week because of an ankle injury. Webster said Morss probably would have played last week if it had been a game with postseason implications.
Keeley has tacked on 812 yards and 13 TDs. He also leads the team with 16 catches for 356 yards and five scores and 66 tackles.
"A really vocal leader," Storie said. "He also leads by example out there, so he is just an all-around good leader."
Storie saw significant playing time as a sophomore at defensive back, but has had problems with concussions. In the second round of the postseason against Meade last year, Storie suffered a concussion on a punt and never played again. Storie had some headaches in the offseason, but those are gone now.
"I am being safe with it," Storie said. "Hitting correctly. Kind of trying to keep my head out of it. More putting my shoulder into it. It's been in the back of my mind really, but when I am playing, I don't let it get to me."
In the spring, Storie was a key part of the Leopards' Class 1A state track championship. Webster said the team "had a scare" earlier in the year with Storie, but he is healthy now and excited for his first playoff action in nearly a full year.
"Will is one of those guys who has just been on the verge of being a breakout player the last couple of the years," Webster said.
Storie has rushed for 256 yards and four scores, collected 181 receiving yards and three TDs and picked off a team-high four passes.
"I think it's just the mindset of being a senior, kind of being the big dogs out there," Storie said. "The success that we had in track last year kind of built my confidence and my speed."