Execution leads to wins

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 24, 2013 - 9:48 PM

Blue Valley Northwest only had the ball for 20 seconds and there it was, lying on the ground just a couple of feet from the goal line.
Another mistake was about to bite Northwest in the tail.
The Huskies had been focusing much of their attention on these sorts of things at practice for the better part of the past two weeks.
Mental breakdowns.
Those were the problems that had been plaguing the Huskies all year, especially during their 1-2 start to the 2013 season.
Despite all that work, all of that extra practice and focus there was the offense walking back to the sideline.
They had just marched 46 yards down the field on Shawnee Mission South in two plays before fumbling the ball at the Raiders 1-yard line.
Here we go again.
But something happened. Actually, not much of anything else happened. And that’s a good thing. Just 1:30 into the game they had turned the ball over, but for the rest of the first quarter and the next three quarters, the Huskies were nearly flawless. They committed just four penalties and didn’t turn the ball over again.
The result was a fifth straight win and, more importantly, a district-opening win. A 35-10 win and confirmation that the extra work and focus was paying off.
That fumble, less than two minutes into the game, was a bit of an aberration last Friday and the Huskies hope that is the case the rest of the way, especially when they take on Olathe East this week in what could very well determine the winner of Kansas Class 6A District 3.
“We need to continue to cut down on our mistakes,” Northwest quarterback Jake Rominger said. “We just need to maintain this style of football that we are playing. We need to stop making the mistakes that hurt us.”
It’s a simple formula, really, but one that had not been working early on.
“Mistakes had been what was holding us back,” said Blue Valley Northwest head coach Mike Zegunis. “We’ve been our own worst enemy. Penalties and turnovers were the main reason we struggled in our two losses this year.”
A lot of extra work on those little things at practice has been paying off and one of the reasons many close to the program point to is leadership.
“We return our whole offensive line and fullback, so we are an experienced group,” Zegunis said. “I don’t think we panic when things don’t go our way or when we have a little bit of adversity, especially when we have a running back like Miles Alexander in there. He has the ability to break one at any point.”
Ah, yes. Mr. Alexander. Or Alexander the Great as many defenders may be saying lately. The junior tailback has 1,122 yards rushing in the team’s first seven games and has nearly 500 in his last two.
“Miles is definitely a great back. He can do it all,” Rominger said.
Alexander is quick to deflect any of the accolades and share them with the rest of the guys on the team.
“Our offensive line is incredible,” Alexander said. “We have a lot of experience up front and our wide receivers are great blockers, too.”
The fact is much of this group was around last year on a team that went 5-4 in the regular season, beat Blue Valley and Bishop Miege before running into the buzzsaw that was Shawnee Mission West in week 1 of the playoffs. West would go on to win the Class 6A state title.
“The past couple of games, our line has really stepped up and played well,” Rominger added. “The amount of seniors that we have his year — the experience — is great.”
Despite not surpassing five wins since 2009, Zegunis feels as though the Huskies have been right on the doorstep. It’s not easy to run roughshod over East Kansas League opponents on an annual basis. Just ask last year’s league champion St. Thomas Aquinas. They picked up just their second win of the year last week.
“We’ve had good teams,” Zegunis said. “Our league is so tough. It’s hard to get EKL wins. A few years ago, we were 5-4. We beat Olathe South, who went on to win the state championship, and we didn’t even go to the playoffs.”
Zegunis and the Huskies are hoping to keep improving and a win this week would mark just the second time since 2006 that they notched more than five wins.
“After our rough start, we’ve continued to battle and continued to get better,” Zegunis said. “I’m proud of the fact that they have put themselves in this position.”