By BRYAN URBACH
PALESTINE — The Wildcats of Cayuga are still undefeated and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Coming off a 56-0 blowout of Itasca at homecoming, the Wildcats now will try to remain perfect on the season when they face Italy this Friday.
Cayuga coach Russell Holden believes that the way to keep an undefeated team motivated and undefeated is quite simple.
“The kids know that a chance for a district championship and a favorable playoff seeding are at stake, and they are mature enough to handle their business,” Holden said. “We have had a lot of players step up this season, but the senior leadership of Payton Wallace, John Vickery, Frankie Aviles and Cota Wilburn has had a huge impact on the team and how they prepare each week.
“They want to keep the great season going, and they take each practice as an important step in preparing to play,” he added. “Motivation is not an issue at all; most people seemed to have written Cayuga off this year, saying we were in for a down season and a rebuilding year.
“The kids are very motivated to prove everyone who doubted them wrong, and they have shown that intensity from day one.”
Having the intensity to keep up an undefeated season is something that can be difficult to do.
One of the things that has been key to the Cayuga team this year has been its success running the ball — being done this season through stellar play from the big guys up front.
“One of the reasons for the success in the running game has been the blocking of our offensive line,” Holden said. “The line is big and physical, and creates opportunities for our running backs to exploit. The line consists of Breck Alexander, Bryson Shaw, Kolby Radford, Jayson Johnson and Ja'shaun Epps.
“Our running back, Keshawn Jackson has rushed for 1,332 yards and 18 TDs in just six games this season and is obviously a huge part of our offense,” Holden added. “He has just taken ownership of his role and looks to make a big play every time he touches the ball.
“John Venable has also run the ball extremely well this year as our fullback, and together they make up a terrific backfield.”
The Wildcats are coming off a bitter end to last season’s game with Italy. The Gladiators upset the Wildcats with a 20-16 victory, but this season, Holden said the Wildcats are ready for anything Italy has to offer.
“Italy is a tough, physical team, with huge offensive and defensive line,” Holden said. “They are definitely the biggest team we have played all year which will cause us some matchup problems.
“Offensively, we just need to make sure we stay on our blocks and play the way we have all year, and be patient in letting the plays develop in the running game,” he continued. “Defensively, we have to be prepared for the multiple offensive sets that they run, everything from the spread to the I-formation.
“Our kids have to know their assignments and play great technique and make plays like they have all season.”