Defense, run game power Diamond to first 2-0 start since 2016

The Diamond Wildcats have rushed for 480 yards in two games.

DIAMOND, Mo. – The Diamond Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2016.

“It’s awesome…the team energy is just crazy this week. We can’t wait for week three to get here,” says senior QB Hunter Shallenburger, “We can’t wait to get to practice. We can’t wait to watch film. Everybody is just on the same page this year.”

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“It feels very satisfying, when you take into account all the hours and hard work the kids put in,” says head coach Mac Whitehead, who is in his 4th season with the Wildcats, “When we started four years ago, we talked about building it inch-by-inch and brick-by-brick. The kids have done it the right way. We’ve struggled the last couple years, but the hard work is paying off for the kids.”

“Winning feels so good. It’s tasty. We’re hungry,” says senior RB Landon Clement, “I really feel like like we’re all experienced. The last few years it wasn’t our time, but it’s golden now.”

The Wildcats beat Ash Grove 16-6 in their season opener two weeks ago – and followed that up with a 21-12 win over Pierce City last week.

The run game has been huge for Diamond – led by Shallenburger and Clement.

Shallenburger (5’11”, 185) has rushed for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns at quarterback, while Clement (5’9″, 205) leads the team with 262 yards, scoring 2 touchdowns.

“I tease them. I call them thunder and lightning. You can tell who is who by looking at them,” coach Whitehead says with a laugh, “Landon does a great job with our inside zone runs. He’s a hard guy to bring down. He gives us that inside run game, where Hunter…every time he gets it, he’s looking to go the distance. They work well with each other, and it’s a good balance for us.”

Both Shallenburger and Clement credit their offensive line, which features three juniors and two seniors.

“I mean…we’re running behind trucks. It’s insane,” Clement says of the offensive line, “We’re going to run it down your throat. We’re going to hit you in the face mask. If you don’t like it…we’re going to do it again.”

“They get off the ball and they push people back,” Shallenburger says of the guys up front, “As a quarterback or a running back, you can see the holes open up quickly. It makes it easy for us to make a cut or make that extra five yard push.  Those five or six yards carries are big plays. It may not look big, but it adds up quickly.”

On the defensive side, the Wildcats have allowed just 18 total points in their two wins against Ash Grove and Pierce City.

Those same two teams combined to score 95 points on Diamond in the first two games last season.

“When you’re giving up less than two touchdowns per game, you’re able to give your offense a chance,” Whitehead says, “You’re not trying to air it out and score a bunch of points. You can grind it out a little but. It helps us. The defense has been pretty outstanding, and we haven’t turned the ball over yet this year. That’s always a bonus, when you’re not giving the other team extra possessions.”

The Wildcats have already equaled their win total from each of the last two years – but they’re not satisfied with winning just two.

“We’re always talking about taking the next step. I feel like we’re finally here,” Shallenburger says, “We’re at that next step where we can accomplish something big.”

“We always talk about getting those extra games. We’ve never made it that far,” Clement says, “We were 2-8 last year and played just ten games. We want to play more than 10. We’re trying to get that extra game and keep playing. I don’t want to start wrestling practice in November, I want to keep playing football.”

Diamond will host Lighthouse Christian on Friday night at 7 PM.