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Piedmont’s defense faces big challenge Friday night

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

Piedmont takes on the Oklahoma City metro’s version of Johnny Football this week.

At just 5-foot-8, Western Heights quarterback Kevin Rassatt has taken the state by storm this season after beginning the year third string on the depth chart.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont safety Jacob Storts flips a Weatherford ball carrier near the line of scrimmage last Friday,

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont safety Jacob Storts flips a Weatherford ball carrier near the line of scrimmage last Friday,

Converted from receiver to quarterback before the season due to injuries at the position, Rassatt has blossomed into one of 5A football’s best playmakers for a resurgent Western Heights team.

The Jets, in the midst of their most successful season in decades, host Piedmont and its surging defense in a crucial District 5A-II game Friday night at 7 p.m. To add intrigue to the Rassatt vs. Piedmont matchup, each team is in what amounts to must-win situations if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive past Friday.

“You never know what could happen, but realistically what we’re looking at is, we really need to win this one to have a shot at the playoffs,” head coach Drew Gossen said. “Western Heights is in the same boat. It’s a definitely a big game for both of us and that’s exciting.”

An unquestionable key in the game for Piedmont will be slowing Rassatt, who was 22 of 28 for 289 yards passing and a touchdown, along with 147 yards and three touchdowns rushing in an upset win at Deer Creek two weeks ago. Earlier in the season, Rassatt rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns and also completed 6 of 9 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a rout of Capitol Hill. Needless to say, he has the Wildcats full attention.

“He’s good at what he does. The best play is almost a busted play,” Piedmont defensive coordinator Matt Bilyeu said. “He’s going to drop back, survey it and if you don’t have every gap covered he’s going to make you pay.”

Piedmont’s defense likely has Rassatt’s attention, too. The Wildcats have forced six turnovers in three weeks and pitched a shutout last week against Southeast. The Spartans only points came via a defensive score.

A defense that struggled to play consistently early this season, is making big plays now.

“We made it a priority in the offseason. We wanted to preach to our kids that we were going to force turnovers,” Bilyeu said. “Our kids do a good job of ball disruption. We do a good job of getting our hands up along the line, and for the most part we’re screaming to the football and swarming to the ball.”

A ball-hawking secondary with at least one interception in each of the last three weeks, and an aggressive defensive line led by defensive end Christian Bricker are a big reason for the improvement. Bricker has moved to defense full time this year and it’s paid off.

Bricker and senior defensive back Heath Beebe have watched the film from Western Heights’ game against Guthrie last week as a blueprint for slowing down Rassatt. The Jays held the Jets to seven points and kept Rassatt in the pocket.

“They just came after him every play and really took away the option of him running,” Beebe said. “They were going to make him throw the ball.”

Bilyeu said that’ll be a part of the Wildcats gameplan Friday night.

“We’re going to steal a little bit of the stuff they did,” Bilyeu said. “But that’s not our defense, so we’ll try and incorporate as much of that as we can.”

 

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