For the Kelly Walsh football team, its successes in October began with the work in June.
“We had the best summer that we ever had with workouts with the kids that we were counting on,” head coach Jon Vance said. “They were there every day working hard with our facility down there, it was a great workout for us every time they were in there and that set the tone for where we needed to be.”
No one outside of the Trojan football program believed Kelly Walsh would still be playing football into November. But the team did and, in the end, that’s all that mattered.
Facing two-time defending state champion Sheridan at Homer Scott Field in the semifinals Friday, Kelly Walsh is deeper in the playoffs than it has been since 2009. All it takes is one more win, one upset, and the Trojans would be in their first state championship game since 1981.
But first they will have to take care of business against the most consistent team in the state.
Initially, eyes will wander toward the Trojans’ regular season clash with the Broncs on that same field. It was a methodical, wet game in which Kelly Walsh wasn’t at its best. The end result was a 30-7 loss.
“I was sick, a lot of us were sick that game and I feel like they’re a great team and we gave them our worst shot,” Kelly Walsh junior running back Brock Spiegelberg said. “What we showed there wasn’t a good showing, so I’m really glad we get another chance to kind of show what we can do.”
Spiegelberg ran for just 74 yards in that game and the Kelly Walsh offense, whose success has been dictated by an ability to run the ball, failed to hit the century mark on the ground.
That’s where the experience of having already played Sheridan works as an advantage.
The offense has worked on its packages in practice and has the coaches optimistic for its success. Spiegelberg has picked his spot to attack, should the Trojan offensive line block the way it has in the last month.
“I’m kind of hoping just to get out there, hit them, get things rolling, get a couple of big runs,” he said, “probably on the edge a little bit more than grind it out in the middle.”
Vance has recognized that his team’s offensive success will rely on the option game with quarterback Caige McComb and Spiegelberg.
“We’ve got to hang our hat on those guys,” he said. “You’ve got to stick with what gets you where you’re at and keep working on it, fine-tuning it.”
Defensively, the Trojans have employed a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy all season. As showcased against Thunder Basin in both games, the defense allowed yards but smothered in the red zone and allowed just one touchdown in seven trips.
That’s the kind of performance the Trojans will need again, but on another level.
Sheridan quarterback Aaron Woodward, receiver Aaron Sessions, running back Kyle Custis and utility back Parker Christensen can all make plays. It will be up to Kelly Walsh to limit the big one.
“You’ve got to try to keep them in front of you,” Vance said. “Defensively, we’ve got to get a push and try to get some pressure on their backfield a little bit and be a little assignment sound.”
The energy at practice has been higher than Spiegelberg has ever seen it before. That has led to much more competitive practices and higher intensity throughout the practice week.
There are a lot of numbers to be thrown around, dictating how unprecedented Kelly Walsh’s presence is in the semifinals.
Regardless of history and statistics, Kelly Walsh has proven itself as one of the top four teams in the state. The Trojans belong in the semifinals.
The road they paved in the summer led to this point and the ultimate goal.
“We haven’t been in this position for so long, back in 2009 or whatever, when I didn’t even know Kelly Walsh was a place,” Spiegelberg said. “So it’s pretty special for us to be doing something for our school. I think we take a lot of pride in it and that’s what we’ve been working for all these months.
“Everybody came and worked this summer very, very hard, this is what we’ve been working for so it means a lot to us for all that we’ve put into it.”