Dowling Catholic is just trying to get back to the top and continue the defense of the 2010 Class 4A football crown, after dropping their season opener to cross-town rival WDM Valley, 28-21.
The other, is just trying to get out of the bottom and get headed uphill, or at least run on flat ground.
Mark Puev enters his second season as the head coach of the TJ Yellow Jackets. He inherited a team that made the playoffs one year, then turned in a 1-8 performance. Puev’s first season saw the Jackets claim one victory. TJ plays 7 games in Council Bluffs this season, with Friday’s 7:30p kick-off at Valley Stadium as the first road trip.
The eventual state champion Maroons handled the Jackets with ease last season in a lopsided 69-0 finish. Dowling scored 42 points in the first quarter.
This year, 16 starters return for TJ, a sign of improvement in Coach Puev’s eyes. But many of those starters play on both sides of the ball, a necessity when only so many players come out for football.
Numbers are improving and so is confidence. Despite a 28-21 loss to their cross-town rival CB Abraham Lincoln, feel some confidence about the 2011 campaign. After all, the battle for Council Bluffs was tied in the 4th quarter.
The Jackets were forced to make a change at quarterback last season when starter Michael Wallace broke his ribs in a game in Sioux City. Dominic Wilson, who’d never played QB before, was thrown into the mix and finished the season under center. He assumes the position this year as Wallace will line up in Wilson’s spot, wide receiver.
Coach Puev installed a variation of the spread offense. They will line up with 4 receivers and let it fly. One thing Coach said this week is he reduced the scope of the playbook and tried to simplify things. He calls it “addition by subtraction.” That made players feel more comfortable in the scheme by taking out the clutter of his playbook.
Running back Michael White returns and offers a ground threat. His speed is used on kickoff returns to give the team a boost. Former tight end Justin Leftridge is now lining up at tackle and according to his coach, embracing and succeeding in the change.
Also up front, the Yellow Jackets bring back some experience, including Nolan Neaman. The junior had a good camp season at Northwest Missouri State, impressing the coaches in his willingness to take on tougher competition in drills. Coach Puev has seen a change in his approach to the game that he hopes is contagious to younger players.
Coach Puev’s defense is more of a 3-5 look this season. He says that allows his smaller, faster linebackers to be more effective and in better positions to make plays. Dewey Sullivan is the anchor of the defense. Sullivan was getting anxious to play after transferring from Council Bluffs St. Albert and having to sit out last season.
The Maroons will be making some changes of their own this week in replacing the injured Michael Palme and Jacob Stacy. Both will likely miss the rest of the season. The injuries move Nick Navin over a spot and more playing time for Andrew Clemen.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @KWKYSports. We’ll be taking your questions all day for our ask the announcers segment of our pregame show which begins on 1150 KWKY at 6p from Valley Stadium. This game will also be webcast at http://dowlingwebcasting.com/ You can also listen to us on KWKY.com as well.
Just a tip, part of this article may get some discussion in our pregame discussion.