As we prep for Friday’s Class 2A State Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium between Bishop Luers (8-6) and Western Boone (10-4), Outside the Huddle thought it would be advantageous to reach out to an expert covering the other side.
Will Willems is the sports editor at the Lebanon Reporter and Zionsville Times Sentinel, where he specializes in high school athletics as well as Butler men’s basketball.
We asked Willems to give his insight on the Stars entering Friday.
Make sure to follow Willems on Twitter @Will_Willems
OTH: For the third straight season, WeBo is in the state championship game. With titles won in 2018 and 2019, what has been the story behind the recent success?
Willems: Head Coach Justin Pelley has done an outstanding job of building the program from the youth level on up. WeBo is a football community, and their kids are excited to be a member of the Stars growing up. The kids trust the system and that the coaches will put them in the right spots and are disciplined with it. They have also been blessed the past few years to not have very many kids go two ways, which is a huge advantage in a 2A program. It keeps players fresh and healthy. They had arguably their two most talented classes graduate the last two years, and this group has learned a lot from them. They are a much younger team than they have been the past two years, and those 12 extra weeks of practice have paid off and shortened the learning curve.
OTH: This year’s roster seems like a mix of veterans and newbies. Elliott Young stands out as a kid who has stepped in well as the starting QB. What kind of player is he?
Willems: Elliott actually wasn’t even a quarterback before this year. He was the kicker on the state title team in 2018 and a safety last year. He is learning and getting more confident every week. He is athletic enough to tuck it and run when he needs to, and they throw in some read-option stuff with him too. Western Boone would prefer to keep him between 10-15 attempts a game, but he is capable to doing more if needed.
OTH: The defense has amassed 35 sacks and are led by freshman Cannon Brunes, just how good is the front 7 for WeBo?
Willems: Western Boone’s defense as a whole has continued to get better throughout the year, and the front 7 is the biggest reason for that. They have a lot of youth on defense, so it took them a while to click, but it really has the past 4-5 weeks. Luke Marsh is their leader at middle linebacker and needs one tackle to set the school’s single-season tackles record. He is extremely quick and can cover sideline to sideline. Clayton Hysong has been a key part of the defensive line the last two years, and gets double teamed a lot, which has led to opportunities for Cannon and some of the other players.
Cannon is a very instinctual player and the son of WeBo’s long-time defensive coordinator Travis Brunes. He just seems to be in the right place at the right time.
OTH: We have seen WeBo in the state finals really be able to push around a physical team like Eastbrook the last few years. Is this team equally as physical?
Willems: They are physical, but not to the level you saw the last two years. A lot of that just comes down to playing younger kids who haven’t had as much time in the weight room. That being said, they have controlled the line of scrimmage most of the year on both sides of the ball. The team takes a lot of pride in what they do in the weight room and it has become a big culture thing.
OTH: Bishop Luers is very quick and athletic and an exceptional passing game has emerged in the second half of the season. Has WeBo faced a team similar?
Willems: The past two weeks, Heritage Christian and Mater Dei have gone 4- and 5-wide a lot against them. Heritage Christian had a lot of quick, athletic receivers but I’m not sure they were to the same level as Luers. Heritage Christian was without its 1,800-yard running back in the regional, so it was a different game plan than the Stars expected and it hurt them in the first half before they made adjustments. Luers has more home-run potential than any team the Stars have played the past few years, and it will definitely be a tough test for the Stars’ secondary. So the last few weeks will have helped WeBo prepare, but this will be a step up.
OTH: What are the keys for WeBo to win a third straight state championship?
Willems: WeBo has to control the time of possession and limit the amount of time the Luers’ offense is on the field. While they can throw, WeBo is a run-first team with Robby Taylor at running back and want to control time and field position. I think it’s unrealistic to think that WeBo will completely shut down Luers’ offense, but they have to limit the damage of their big plays and limit their opportunities.
Western Boone doesn’t want to get into a shootout with them, they want to make it a grind it out game.