By TONY EIERDAM
It is a team in need of a win.
And for the Mineral Wells Rams, nothing would be better than to garner that first victory of 2013 on Homecoming Night at the home field.
The Rams (0-3) will face the Iowa Park Hawks (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. today at Ram Stadium.
MWHS is still being bit by the injury bug which saw the team go into last week’s game at Glen Rose with six starters nursing injuries.
One of those starters – safety Omery Trevino – is expected back today, but the Rams still will be without running backs Devon Edmond, Josh Hardee and Kolby Parks. Parks also starts on defense.
Despite the loss of its top three backs, the Rams’ coaching staff found new avenues in which to move the football last week.
Running back Tristan Seargeant has done an admirable job filling in, and last week the Rams employed receivers Kelly Williams and DaShawn Hicks in the back field. The result was a combined 143 yards rushing, including a game-high 86 by Hicks.
Seargeant had his season high as well at Glen Rose with an impressive 77 yards on seven carries. The Rams as a team rushed for a season-high 230 yards.
Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence said the plan is to stay with the three hot runners.
“We have to build on the momentum we created last week,” Lawrence said. “We played better in the second half and we need to build off that.
“My coaching staff works extremely hard. When you have a split staff (half of the coaches assigned to offense; other half to defense) like we do, and we don’t always get to meet together and see each other.
“But I have total confidence in my offensive staff as I do my defensive staff. People don’t understand just how hard these coaches work or how dedicated they are to Mineral Wells High School and Ram football.
“I am just extremely proud to have them on my staff, and I promise we are working as hard as we can.”
Although Homecoming and its week of festivities is fun for the players and students, it also can create distractions. Lawrence feels the Rams will enjoy the festive week while also concentrating on the job ahead.
“Homecoming is always exciting, but we have told our players to put all the peripheral stuff – the parade, dance, Homecoming King and Queen and all the other activities – to the side and focus on winning the football game,” Lawrence said. “All of that is much better when you win the game.
“Our focus as a football team is winning the football game. And playing at home after two weeks on the road is also a plus.
“We like playing in front of the home crowd, and it is easier to relax between when school lets out and when they are required to be at the field house when you are at home.
“And winning a Homecoming game is extra special.”
Rams fans should not expect the same Hawks team that fell to the Rams last year.
Their quarterback, Derrick Ponder, son of IP head coach Scott Ponder, is a sophomore and has a year as starting signal caller under his belt.
Last year, Derrick Ponder passed for 1,848 yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman.
This season he has guided the Hawks to wins over Pampa and Bridgeport. The Hawks’ lone loss was to Gainesville.
In the win over Bridgeport last week, IP demonstrated an ability to run the ball as senior running back Dakota Schweiger scored all three touchdowns in the 21-14 win.
The key to the Hawks’ rushing success is its huge offensive line – all seniors – anchored by 6-3, 320-pound Austin Gestes.
Other IP offensive linemen include Rowdy Harper (285 pounds), Jody Roberts (285 pounds), Carlos Caballero (280 pounds) and Jacobi Sidlauskas (270 pounds).
“Iowa Park has a massive offensive line,” Lawrence said. “We can’t get in the middle of them.
“If they get their hands on us we will get blocked.
“The quarterback doesn’t run very well, but he throws it very well. His favorite receivers are Westyn Swenson, Dyllan Radford and Bailey Hale.
“Dakota Schweiger is a good back and Zack Stumbaugh will also line up in the backfield if they are in a tandem set.
“But Schweiger is a load, and he also starts on defense (at linebacker).”
The Hawks are led on defense by Schweiger, who led the team with 102 tackles in 2012.
“Their primary defense is the 3-2,” Lawrence said. “Stumbaugh and Schweiger are the inside linebackers, and those are who they want making the tackles.
“They basically run cover two or a cover four looks in the secondary most of the time.”
Lawrence feels beating the Hawks will be a bigger challenge for the Rams this year.
“Iowa Park has a lot of people coming back from last year,” Lawrence said. “They are a more experienced team compared to the team we played last year, and the quarterback has really matured.
“I think their running game is better than last year, and their offensive line is bigger.
“They play very good defense, and I just think they are a better team this year.”