WAVERLY – Cade Carpenter was as nervous as he’d ever been.
The Waverly-Shell Rock senior had the role of Emile De Becque in the 1958 musical “South Pacific” last fall. Hehad his lines memorized, but he had never been on stage in front of the entire school before. He had to be confident with his delivery of every word.
And deliver he did.
“There’s nothing that will ever make me as nervous as that,” he said with a smile.
Musical scores course through Carpenter’s veins. Choir has been his place of inspiration since junior high, and he has performed various roles in W-SR’s musicals over the last four years. He will play Davey in next month’s musical, “Newsies.”
Those vocal skills have helped Carpenter to lead on stage and steel his endurance on the football field.
“Talking to the football guys doesn’t compare (to singing or being on stage),” he said.
A three-year letter-winner, Carpenter has become a staple of W-SR’s offensive and defensive lines. He played as a sophomore in 2018 before becoming a starter each of the last two seasons.
He started at guard along the offensive line as a junior last fall.
Then, he moved to center this season.
Even though some of his blocking responsibilities remained the same, transitioning to a new position had its own challenges. Perhaps the biggest adjustment was learning how to snap the ball and take his first step off the line of scrimmage at the same time.
“We put in a whole new offensive scheme,” Carpenter said. “So, it was kind of a big teaching process for every guy. At guard, you block the guy you’re supposed to. But at center, you have to make sure you deliver the snap, deliver it on time, where the quarterback wants it, and then go block the guy. It’s definitely harder.”
When Carpenter found out he was moving to center, he got together with starting quarterback Brady Ramker after summer weightlifting. The two worked on snaps. Following two-a-days and fall camp, the teammates continued to work on their timing until Carpenter began to feel comfortable.
Another challenge for Carpenter was reading the defensive front and knowing his primary blocks. Depending on the play call, Carpenter said he usually will double team with one of his guards – either a “Rex” or “Leo” call he signals out pre-snap.
“I’m thinking about where the play’s going to go, where the backers might move and might shift so where we have to combo off, get one of the linemen on the backers,” he said. “Just looking at the whole picture and seeing where we need to block and who we need to block.”
Not only is Carpenter the Go-Hawks’ starting center, but the 6-foot-2, 250-pound also starts at defensive tackle.
Getting into shape was tough, Carpenter said. Training his body to play both ways took time. So, Carpenter invested as much time as he could both over the offseason and during practice.
He focused on distance training over the summer, running long distances for longer periods of time with little rest, he said. Then, he emphasized short distance running, with quick, explosive movements with more rest in between.
“(I was able) to simulate more of what the game would be (like),” he said of his training.
“Then it’s a lot of (work) in the chutes and in the sleds, staying low, playing hard, playing for 6 seconds and taking a 30-second break and doing it again,” he added.
His hard work has paid off. The results have come in waves.
“I’ve definitely gotten stronger, I’ve really got my technique down and know who I need to block and my assignments and everything,” he said. “It’s night and day, because I was playing slow because I didn’t really know what was going on, to now where I’m just playing fast.”
Carpenter’s coaches have seen how far he has come, too.
“He’s earned the respect of his teammates and is an incredibly hard worker,” Go-Hawks head coach Mark Hubbard said. “He plays a lot of snaps for us, and he’s earned that respect.
“He’s bought in. Ever since he was a little guy in youth ball. He loves football. He’ll probably play some football after high school if he wants to, but he loves football. … He loves the black and gold.”
For the second time this season, W-SR (4-3) will square off with defending Class 3A state champion Western Dubuque (4-3). This time, it’s win or go home as the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A playoffs kick off at 7 p.m. in Epworth. The first meeting was a 28-9 Bobcats’ win. Carpenter believes this time will be different.
“We need to come in with the mentality that we’re going to be the kings,” he said. “And we’re going to play hard, and we’re on the attack, not them attacking us and us bouncing back.”