The season opener for the Zionsville football team has a little more around it than normal this year.
Not only will it be the coaching debut of new coach Scott Turnquist and the annual Eagle Fest celebration, but former head coach Pat Echeverria will be roaming the visiting sidelines as the new head coach at Pike.
But while there will be some outside excitement on the game, Turnquist said the Eagles have to focus on what they can control on Friday night.
“Of course they are excited for this game for a lot of reasons,” Turnquist said. “There is a lot of hype around it, and Coach Eche has been involved in their lives for so long, and out of respect they are excited to compete against him and his staff because they know them, love them and respect them. But we have to control what we can control, and make sure we take each rep, each drill, each day as an opportunity to progress to playing our best. It isn’t just going to happen because of the emotion of Friday night, it is going to come from the process of preparing.”
So far this fall, Turnquist has liked the way the Eagles have handled their work as they get ready for the new season.
The team had their official scrimmage against Kokomo last Friday, and showed some good things.
“I like our coachability and their willingness to put in the work,” Turnquist said. “From the start of our drills in the spring and summer, they have really taken to what we are doing. We are pretty even keeled and are learning from our mistakes. We came out healthy on Friday, which is great and we had a couple of learning opportunities on Friday. We came out a little slow, but we made adjustments, which was a real positive. Guys were flying around, making plays and being physical, which was great to see.”
Turnquist replaced Echeverria this spring, after the former coach resigned after five years in charge of the Zionsville program.
Turnquist said while it was an adjustment for the team with a new system, but having a full spring and summer was beneficial.
“The spring was new for everybody, but it turned out to a be a huge benefit,” Turnquist said. “We had a chance to use the new spring rules to teach a lot, and when you are making a full scheme change, like we did on defense, it is valuable to have that time.”
On offense, Cole Wiseman will be the quarterback, after seeing some action each of the last two years.
He was 38 of 78 for 584 yards and six touchdowns a season ago.
Running back Colin Price had 68 carries for 533 yards and five touchdowns.
The Eagles also have Purdue commit Gus Hartwig anchoring the offensive line, along with a couple other veterans.
“Gus Hartwig, Camden Cooper and Cole Wiseman have been big for us, as have Zach Sibila and Cam McDaniel,” Turnquist said. “Those guys show leadership in a lot of different ways. They aren’t always the most vocal kids, but they are there consistently and their performances are where we want it. Colin Price is playing at a high level too, but that senior group is doing what we want them to do.”
On defense, Garrett Williamson will be the leader after posting a team best 178 tackles a season ago.
Turnquist said the linebacking group is one unit that has stood out so far.
“Garrett Williamson has done a great job,” Turnquist said. “He has battled through some injury stuff, but he is constantly out with us and coaching the other guys. He takes what we say, uses in practice then teaches the others to do the same. Sam Kidwell is another one who does a good job with that. Those guys have to be the vocal leaders as the inside linebackers, but they are also spreading their knowledge.”
When looking at overall strengths of the team, Turnquist said the way the Eagles focus on the little things will be key.
He said along with that, if the Eagles focus on just getting better week by week, they will be in the position they want to be in at the end of the year.
“I hope that our effort and playing with great technique are two of our big strengths,” Turnquist said. “We want to be explosive on offense, but be consistent too, taking steps forward. I expect us to play hard and be fundamentally sound on defense. Those are the foundations we want to build on. We are just going to take things on a week-by-week basis and see how good we can be that week. We aren’t going to talk about winning championships, because everyone should have that goal. It is more about making sure we are operating at the highest level we can every week to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Zionsville Times Sentinel and Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.