WATERLOO — Waterloo East football coach Xavier Leonard says there are a few kinks his Trojan squad has to iron out in the five days before it opens the 2019 season against rival Waterloo West in the 106th meeting between the two teams.
The list began with establishing a good run game. On the flip side, Leonard said he wanted to see a unit that played good run defense, running to the ball and tackling as group.
Those were points of emphasis leading up to East’s scrimmage on Friday at Crestwood.
“You could see signs of that being better in practice, but against somebody else, what’s going to happen?” Leonard said. “We need to see a good run game, and we’ve got to be good against the run.”
What Leonard has liked is a group of senior players who have taken their leadership to another level. He singled out several players like third-year starting quarterback Dylan Reyes, Lakey Martin, Tyrell Newman, Jacob Hanley, Ahkil Muhammad and Sage Cunningham.
Leonard says their leadership will be important as the Trojans look to snap a 15-game losing streak and make some strides in Class 3A, District 3.
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“There job has been to step up and be vocal leaders and they have done that,” Leonard said. “Another thing, that I’ve really seen in the last two practices is we’ve got to learn to play physical. I’m proud of the effort I’ve seen there, really seeing some movement from a playing physical standpoint.”
He pointed to returning linebacker Christian Zearing as a player who has really stepped up for a unit that returns its top seven tacklers.
“He has showed me a little extra more in camp,” Leonard said.
Back to that run game, Leonard has tweaked a few things with his offensive line to potentially give Reyes more time to get the ball to playmakers like Muhammad and Newman, who led East with 38 catches for 591 yards in 2018, and open holes for sophomore running back Kjuan Owens and Cedar Rapids Washington transfer Alexander Glover.
On the offensive line, sophomore Marshall Armstrong has had a good camp, and Leonard switched Myles Moore to center and Cunningham, the former center, to guard, opposite another returning lineman, Martin.
“I really think that has shored up the line a little,” Leonard added.