Is this finally the year for Williamsburg?

Williamsburg’s Derek Weisskopf (12) and Braylon Wetjen (2) hug after winning a Class 2A semifinal game of Iowa High School state football at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa . The Raiders defeated the Golden Eagles 31-7. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s all about the kids first. Let’s clear that up right now.

They’re the ones who play, they’re the ones who do the work, even in the off-season. Soccer is a year round thing, strength training never stops.

From that standpoint, Williamsburg’s Friday morning game against Central Lyon/George-Little Rock for the Class 2A state championship is all about Carson Huedepohl, Derek Weisskopf, Gable Dayton, Kyle Goodell and every other young man on the UNI Dome field in Black and red.

However, Curt Ritchie admits that part of him is pondering what a win on Friday would mean for his community, his coaching staff and himself. The guy is one of the best head coaches in the world and has been at it for 30 years, 22 of them in Williamsburg.

There are few programs that are as consistent as this one. The Raiders were a playoff qualifier for 15 straight years and won a string of postseason games in the 2000s.

But they never won it all, losing in the 2017 2A Championship game to Waukon and in the 2002 game to Emmetsburg. It’s probably not fair to tell anyone earned to win a title.

But if it’s fair to say, try Williamsburg, try Ritchie.

“I think anybody who’s that kind of competitor definitely thinks about it,” he said. “You want to be the best. You won’t get to where you are together if you haven’t had that drive within you. I think, honestly, in my 30 years as a coach, I just want one year where I don’t have to see those tears of kids not only end, but just feel like you haven’t gotten where you are it wanted to be. For once, I want to see tears of joy.”

That’s not to say the coach doesn’t appreciate the situation his team is in. Williamsburg is 12-0, ended 1A runner-up Van Meter’s 61-game winning streak in the regular season, defeated 3A playoff qualifier Solon, rolled through district play and managed to win his four playoff games by a combined margin from 171-14.

“It’s kind of special when you find out when your last game is, isn’t it? You can play that last week, and not everyone can do that,” Ritchie said. “But only once (pause)… and this group deserved it so much. They are a total team because they push each other and have fun together. As I said on Twitter last night, you could practice with these guys all year round. It’s a long season but it seems like it just flew by because they’re so busy every week.”

These teams are similar in that they have rarely been challenged this season, are part of traditionally strong programs, and have been signed by the University of Iowa.

That would be Weisskopf for Williamsburg, a junior linebacker recruit who has 12 touchdowns as a receiver. The Raiders move him defensively to take advantage of his versatility and try to create discrepancies.

“Obviously he has some physical abilities that you don’t often see in a kid,” Ritchie said. “But honestly, he’s different from most of the kids I’ve coached in that he absolutely seeks to be competitive. He loves to take part in competitions. It only seems to get better as the competition increases. He loves that part of it.”

Senior Zach Lutmer is Central Lyon/G-LR’s big dog, or lion, in this case a defensive back recruit who, as a quarterback, is responsible for 2,694 passing and rushing yards and 37 touchdowns. He had 269 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his team’s 37-14 win over Ida Grove OABCIG in last week’s semifinals.

“It’s one of those things where you have the best possible defense plans out there and you can execute them perfectly, and things crash and he makes crazy things happen,” Ritchie said. “He’s definitely a difference maker and someone you hold accountable for in everything you do.”

Ritchie was asked if controlled aggression on defense was key against Lutmer.

“You saw both philosophies throughout the season. Some people really tried to pressure him, others tried not to,” he said. “I don’t know if one was better than the other. But you’ve definitely seen people have other plans for him. We’ll try to have a good mix.”

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