The San Francisco 49ers Charlie Wedemeyer Memorial Coach of the Week award for week six goes to Mike Ward from Leland High School in San Jose, CA.
Coach Ward and the Leland Chargers won in impressive fashion over the Independence 76ers by a score of 38 – 13 to improve to 5 – 0 on the season. The win was a result of detailed game planning, strong preparation, and maximum effort throughout the game by the Chargers team and coaching staff.
The Chargers set the tone for the game in the opening quarter. The offense of the 76ers looked poised to put together a great opening drive after picking up several quick first down, but Leland shut the opening drive down with two sacks. The Chargers had a short field following the defensive stand and put in a quick score. Sophomore quarterback Carson Yates kept the ball on a read option, running for the game's opening score. On their next offensive possession, Yates kept the ball on another read option and scored again to make it 14 – 0. Following Yates's two touchdowns, the Chargers never allowed the 76ers to get within two scores for the remainder of the game.
"We have a motto on this team, 'all gas, no brakes.' Once we set the tone early, we told our guys not to let up," said Coach Ward on his team's attitude in the opening quarter.
Leland continued to pull away the second quarter as the offense and special teams continued to put points on the board. Yates found wide receiver Anthony Gonzales on a screen pass that Gonzales would turn into a 66-yard touchdown. Gonzales showed a burst of speed as he pulled away from the defenders and pushed Leland ahead 21 – 0.
The 76ers proved on the next drive that if they were to go down, they would go down swinging. Independence drew up a play to get the ball in their best receiver's hands. The Independence quarterback launched a 63-yard bomb that found its way into his receiver's hands, despite the great coverage by the defensive backs of the Chargers.
This set the score at 21 – 7 and fueled life into the Independence players. Down by two scores, they believed they were within striking distance and that a comeback win was within their grasps.
The final drive of the second quarter proved to be one of the most crucial throughout the game, as it deflated any momentum that the 76ers' offense picked up.
"We knew we needed to score going into halftime," said Coach Ward. "We really wanted to put the pressure on them and it did not matter how we scored."
The Chargers marched down the field until they got inside of the 30-yard line. At this point Coach Ward would call on his kicker, Justin Kuhn, who he described as being one of his most reliable players. Kuhn nailed a 37-yard field goal to give the Chargers a three possession lead at 24 – 7. Kuhn is no stranger to getting called on to hit big kicks. Last week, the Chargers' kicker made a 47-yard field goal, which tied the school record.
"It was huge! We talked before the game about where he felt comfortable and when we got inside his comfort zone we called his number," said Coach Ward. "The line executed, the hold was great and Justin gave us a nice momentum boost going into halftime."
The third quarter proved to be a defensive battle, with neither team scoring. At this point Coach Ward asked his team to step up. "I challenged them to play a full, four quarter game," said Coach Ward.
Running back Kyle Anderson would be the one to answer Coach Ward's challenge. In the fourth quarter Anderson found the end zone by breaking away a 19-yard run for a touchdown. The 76ers would respond as they found the goal line after a hard fought 5-yard run. Once again, special teams play would take away all momentum that the 76ers had built. On the following extra point attempt, senior linebacker Brett Mason snuck past the line and blocked the kick which left the score at 31 – 13.
On the next drive, the Chargers' offense would stamp the game shut after draining much of the clock. Lining up in their wildcat offense, Anderson took a handoff and broke away for a 51-yard run for a touchdown, which pushed the score to 38 – 13.
"We ran the wildcat offense a few times and saw a favorable matchup along the line. Kyle made a good read, found the seam and made a good cutback to take it in for the score. It was the perfect way to end a game offensively," said Coach Ward on Anderson's run.
On the night, Anderson racked up 182 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
"He is a special player and very unselfish. If you ask, he will tell you that it isn't him, it's the line. He puts the team before himself," said Coach Ward. "For his size, he is one of the toughest runners I have ever seen. It is going to take more than one man to bring him down. Our offensive coaches do a great job of getting him the ball, which really opens it up for our other players in the offense."
Quarterback Carson Yates, a 6'3" sophomore, ended the night going 8 for 11 with 157 passing yards and one touchdown and 8 rushes for 23 yards and a score. While eight completions may not seem significant, Yates distributed the ball to seven different receivers.
"In practice we get him to put the ball in as many guy's hands as possible so that they are ready on Friday nights. It is on those players to execute every time they run a route and give it their all. When they do Carson will find them," said Coach Ward on Carson's passing game.
"Carson is a quiet kid, but has a high level of competitiveness. He won't tell you how bad he wants to win, but he will show you," Coach Ward said on his quarterback's competitive streak. "He's a special kid and I'm very excited about his future as our quarterback. His future is bright playing at this level and possibly collegiately."
The defensive effort by Leland cannot be ignored in this game. Leland would end the game with five different players with nine or more tackles, six players would combine for nine tackles for a loss, and three players would combine to tally six total sacks.
"We are an attacking style defense and this week we honed in on putting pressure on the quarterback. We knew that if our defensive backs had tight coverage down the field, that it would allow our defensive front to pin our ears back and go hunting," said Coach Ward on the Chargers' defensive strategy. "Our offensive staff does a great job of building a game plan that allows our defense to be aggressive."
Coach Ward attributed much of the success to the preparation that went in all week leading up to the game against Independence.
"The entire team's performance was great from last Monday moving forward. Our players continue to trust that the staff will create a game plan to put them in the best position to be successful. I'm proud of the effort our players and coaches put in all week leading up. It really paid off with a big win at home," said Coach Ward.
Coach Ward believes that at this point in the season his team is finally seeing their goals come to fruition.
"Leland is not a great program historically. We are trying to not only learn to win, but also sustain success. Our players are confident and we are not letting that confidence slide to cockiness," said Coach Ward. "The players are staying hungry which is good to see. 5 and 0 is great, but if you want to be more than that you need to continue to stay hungry, focused, and do what you have done to get to this point."
"It is pretty awesome to be given an award named after Charlie Wedemeyer. It is an honor. I know how much of an inspiration he is. He did so much for sports in this area," said Coach Ward on winning the award.
As our Charlie Wedemeyer Memorial Coach of the Week, Mike Ward will receive a $1,000 grant for the Leland High School football program from the 49ers Foundation. As part of the award, he will also receive two tickets to a 49ers home game where he will be recognized on the field. Coach Adams will also be invited to visit the SAP Performance Facility to watch a closed practice where head coach Kyle Shanahan will officially present him with his award. Coach Ward will be featured on the 49ers Cal-Hi Sports Report on Sunday's at 6 & 10 PM on NBC Sports and re-broadcast throughout the week. Congratulations, Coach Ward!