NORMAN — The Warriors know the challenge they’re in for tonight. Traveling two hours to Hennessey, where Washington will face the two-time defending state champions at 7:30 p.m., is as tough a game as any they’ve played.
But the Warriors, who have an established tradition of playoff football themselves, aren’t letting any of the numbers intimidate them.
“We feel like we’ve been the underdogs all year,” linebacker Cody Bratten said. “It’s not going to change anything. It will be a playoff atmosphere. We just have to stay focused and play physical and hard.”
Washington (8-3) is just two years removed from a state quarterfinals appearance, a feat the Warriors set a goal for themselves to duplicate this year. Standing in their way is fifth-ranked Hennessey (9-2), which has shown it can play with anyone in the state in Class 2A.
Both teams enter the game on big win streaks. Washington is 7-0 since their last matchup against a top-five team, a 41-7 loss to fourth-ranked Frederick in Week 4.
Hennessey, meanwhile, is on an eight-game winning streak of its own. The Eagles have lost just two games all season, with both coming to top-three opponents from Class 3A in Jones and Kingfisher, and are considered a strong possibility to make it a three-peat this season.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Washington coach Brad Beller said. “All season we’ve just focused on controlling what we can control and not worry about anyone else. And it’s paid off.”
It has, as has the difficult schedule, with Washington opening with three opponents from higher classes to start the season. Since the Frederick game, the Warriors have won every game by at least three possessions, including a big 43-6 victory over Kingston in the opening round of the playoffs.
To continue that success against Hennessey, Beller said his team would need to stay aggressive offensively.
“We’ve got to come out and test the waters a bit offensively,” he said. “We need to be effective throwing the ball and take some chances early to open up the running game, which is what we really want to do.”
Another challenge the Warriors must overcome is one of sheer size. The Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines are among the largest in Class 2A, and it’s something Washington can’t simulate well in practice.
To prepare his team, Beller has put the line through plenty of drills and even more one-on-one practice. For the Warriors to pull off the upset, they must be able to get off the line and make plays, on both sides of the ball. And Beller is confident he has the players to make that happen.
“It’s all about fundamentals on the line,” he said. “To some extent you can’t prepare for their size, so we have to make sure we’re ready and don’t make mistakes.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com