Cyclone football looks to keep taking steps forward

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Ottawa High School football team played at a much different level this past Friday against Baldwin than the Cyclones did against Piper in the opener.

Ottawa coach Walt Alexander said the focus for this Friday’s homecoming game against Spring Hill is to keep moving forward.

Ottawa High School sophomore defensive lineman Tommy Evans forces a fumble with a hit on the Baldwin quarterback Jack Harvey.

“There is no pressure on these kids this week other than what we put on ourselves in trying to execute, keep improving and playing hard,” Alexander said. “That is the pressure we have. We can’t revert back to week one. We have to keep improving. That is our goal.”

The Cyclones (1-1) come into the game with a different mentality, Alexander said.

“They know if they eliminate mistakes they can be in games with anybody,” Alexander said. “We made it a point of emphasis to get right back to work Saturday morning. They have been really focused on this week.”

Ottawa played sound football against Baldwin and it resulted in a big win. Alexander said defensively, Ottawa’s alignment and assignment were so much better.

“We did not have any breakdowns defensively,” he said. “We had a plethora of those the week before. Offensively, we eliminated a lot of mistakes and our tempo was much better.”

State-ranked Spring Hill (2-0) is catching a lot of praise for its wins over powers Louisburg and Paola to start the season. The Broncos are an athletic team that plays with passion, Alexander said.

“Defensively, they are very good,” he said. “They fly to the ball well. They play real physical football. That is what this league is all about.

“Offensively, their pass game is a little more of a concern. They have such good speed in their slots running jet sweeps and passing routes. Offensive line does a great job of protecting their quarterback. We are going to see a lot more formations and few different things we have to be aware of. A lot more different pass routes. You have to be disciplined or they will catch you for sure. We know Spring Hill is a quality team. That does not faze us at all. Our kids are not afraid of it.”

Alexander said Ottawa is raising eyebrows through the Frontier League with its play.

“Our kids know they are starting to gain a little respect [in the league],” Alexander said. “We are getting better. They definitely are not going to overlook us. We are playing a great team that will not overlook you because you are improving.

“Our kids are up to the challenge. Our challenge is to keep playing aggressive, hard-nosed football and keep improving.”

Homecoming week can be a distraction for the players, but Alexander addressed that early in the week.

“Our focus is the football game,” he said. “Homecoming activities is for the kids that don’t get to do what you get to do. You guys are football players and have to work your butts off and be at practice every day. You get to enjoy the football game. You guys focus on the football part. Some kids play better on homecoming because the atmosphere is better.”

Ottawa has yet to play a 48-minute regulation game because the first two games had running clocks in the second half.

Alexander understands that is for the protection of the players, but knows his players need playing time.

“We need to get as much game time experience as we can,” he said. “There is no substitute for game speed and getting that experience on game night. These kids work so hard all off-season and only get nine games. You hate to see running clocks.”