All photos are courtesy of Bonnie Law
By Rich Winter
One week ago a lot of 9B football fans east of the Missouri River had to do a double-take when they saw the Wall over Castlewood score, 28-20. The proverbial thought east river was Castlewood beat Wall 54-0, in Wall, in the 2017 quarterfinals and until they show they can hang with the big boys of 9B, let’s not make a fuss over the Wall Eagles.
“That’s where you run into that east-river vs. west river bias that says this team is going to run into an east river team and just get smoked,” Lex Heathershaw, Wall coach said. “We’ve created a mindset over here that says, ‘think what you want, we are going to do what we do.”’
During the week leading up to the Castlewood game the Wall Eagles blocked out any self doubts and Heathershaw reminded his guys of all the work they put in during the summer and through the fall.
“The guys just bought into the work,” Heathershaw said. “We came a long way from where we were and we’re happy with how things went and what they’ve accomplished up to this point but we’re not done yet.”
As the Eagles hit the road today to face Ben Connot’s undefeated Colome Cowboys Heathershaw only knows that his guys are going to compete.
“We have a ton or respect for Colome and they have been a successful program now for a few years," he said. “They are doing things the right way and we know this. We know they will come to play and we know we’re going to come to play so it should be fun to watch.”
For an Eagles team that has weapons all over the field, it is the big people up front that have been setting the tone and executing to perfection to make the high powered Eagles offense soar.
The Eagles play out of the shotgun quite often and Heathershaw says it all starts with senior center Tadan Casjens.
“His snaps are critical and they are right there every time,” Heathershaw said.
The Eagles returned four of five starters up front, with sophomore Bridger Amiotte taking over at tight end.
“Gallino does a good job but up front all five are a force to be reckoned with and their athleticism is fun to watch,” he said.
Senior quarterback Jacob Bielmaier has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years. In addition to his throwing arm and decision making skills Heathershaw says his QB is the perfect example of a student athlete.
“He’s doing things the right way with his education and participating in the summer conditioning programs,” coach said. “To see how far he’s come in the last two years and how his confidence has grown has been fun to see.”
A running back by committee of mostly Cooper McConaghy and a beefed up 6-2, 210 lb. Bradan McDonnell played well all season and particularly well against Castlewood.
“I thought Cooper played his best game of the year and really ran behind his blocks,” Heathersahw said. “Bradan does his thing but you better make a pretty good tackle because he doesn’t go down easy.”
On the outside it’s pick your weapon galore with track speedsters like Tack Tines and Cash Wilson doing a lot of the damage on both sides of the ball.
“Our guys have been working their tails off and I’m pretty proud of where they are,” Heathershaw said. “This started a couple years ago with the goal of winning a state title so hopefully Friday night we’ll take the next step.”
For anyone that watched last week’s game, a pivotal moment came after Castlewood scored to close the gap to 14-12. A big stop of the two point conversion and then the Eagles get the ball back. On their first play from scrimmage, Bielmaier went down in a heap with what turned out to be leg cramps.
Backup QB, junior Enoch Cuny came in with pressure galore and led the Eagles downfield for a touchdown to stem the tide at a critical juncture of the game.
“When your number is called you have to be ready and we were happy with how he handled that and the way he went about it leading us on a touchdown drive.”
When Heathershaw first moved back to his hometown he wasn’t sure what to expect. He admits to being nervous about how the community would receive him. Now in his second season and with the Eagles moving on to the 9B semis the coach couldn’t be more thankful for a community that has stepped up and shown their support in every way imaginable.
“Everyone here has been so welcoming and that’s been awesome,” he said. “We are not just a team but we are a community and everyone from our parents to the administration down to the janitors in the school have shown support and contributed to OUR success.
The summer workouts are paying dividends on the field and Heathershaw expects the work ethic and the success to roll forward.
For a community that embraces their team like no other, Heathershaw says he’s excited to be part of the Wall school and community.
“Our elementary school just won a national award as a Blue-Ribbon school,” he said. “K-12 we are doing great things and doing them the right way.”