Dogies change things up

Sonja Karp

The Newcastle Dogies faced the toughest opponent of their challenging early season lineup last Friday when they hosted the number one-ranked Glenrock Herders. It was evident early on why the Converse County squad has earned their top ranking as they got off to a quick and dominating start, before going on to take the 42-6 victory over the home standing Dogies.

“We have started our season playing the top teams in the conference, so though they have not ended like we want them to, there are a couple of things we can take from them,” head coach Matt Conzelman determined. “We are getting a good look at where we stand right now against the powerhouses, and we are seeing the level we need to be playing at in order to compete with teams like that, which gives us a goal we can work toward.”

In what could be considered a building year, one of the challenges Conzelman and his team is facing is figuring out how to replace most of the backfield from last season’s veteran squad. As such, personnel for the Dogies took a big, and somewhat surprising turn this week, with the shifting of senior Sawyer Roberson from the offensive line to quarterback. 

The decision to make this move was one that coaches gave considerable thought, given he has never played that position in his football career. However, the offensive tackle made a pretty impressive debut as a back, given he completed 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 67 yards, picked up 13 yards on 14 carries and ran in the first touchdown of his varsity career — and the only one of the game for the Dogies.

“One of the benefits of me being a teacher of P.E. in high school is that I get an opportunity to see who can throw and who can’t off the football field,” Conzelman explained. “I knew Sawyer had a good arm, and in baseball he throws some monster pitches, so I knew he had it in him. What I didn’t know was if he would be able to do it within just a week of practice.”

Conzelman also noted other advantages Roberson brings to the position besides a good arm. As a senior who is playing in his fourth year in the program, he has experience and a confidence that is vital in the quarterback role. His physical stature, including his height and strength, is a huge benefit. That is especially true in the Dogies’ Wildcat sets, where the quarterback often blocks for ball carriers.

“Sawyer really did a pretty good job of understanding the position, especially having had less than a week to prepare,” Conzelman nodded. “He had a pretty good pass completion percentage for his first time out, and though he did throw a couple of interceptions, that will improve over time.”

Roberson’s touchdown got the Dogies on the board in the fourth quarter. After a drive downfield, the team ran an isolation play for him and he punched it into the end zone. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving Newcastle with six points on the night.

As a team, Conzelman admitted he felt that both the defense and the offense has work to do to get where they need to be.

“Defensively, we were trying to shut down big plays because we just can’t let those happen, especially with a team like Glenrock,” he sighed. “They had two long runs that resulted in touchdowns. The first was 50 and then they got a 60 yard run, and all of a sudden it is 14-0 in a blink of an eye. On offense, they are number one or two for a reason, and they jammed us up.”

Offensively, the team’s goal is a little unexpected given it isn’t to score a certain number of points. Conzelman explained that what he wants his team to do is to get a first down every time they go out on offense. 

“There’s a few things that can happen if we’re getting first downs,” he began. “One, we control the time of possession because if we have it, they don’t. Second, the more first downs we get, the better our field position. If we can even move up 20 or 25 yards, they have more field to cover if we end up having to punt. The other thing that happens is that it builds our confidence, so it’s kind of like a snowball rolling. It just gets bigger and bigger, and then we get our momentum going.” 

Unfortunately, it took until the middle of the second quarter for the Dogies to get a first down on their own volition rather than by a penalty, which meant the Herders had many offensive possessions early in the contest and they used those to their advantage.

The Dogies were scheduled to travel to Crowley to take on the 1A Rocky Mountain Grizzlies this Friday, but on Tuesday the game was cancelled due to lack of numbers. As a result, the Dogies will put up a win on their record this week via forfeit.


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