GASTON – When you look at the volume of Wes-Del’s departures, it might seem like a tall order to keep things rolling into another football season.
The Warriors bid adieu to 12 seniors, nearly a third of last year’s varsity roster. Among that group, five of the team’s top six rushers, all of its passing production and 50 of 57 receptions. And that’s for a team with a large number of two-way players.
But Wes-Del has a way to counter that. Call it a culture. Call it a style. But it’s something in the way the Warriors work at the most basic level that allows for hope of sustaining the gains of last year’s 5-5 season.
“At this level, for us, we’re not doing anything that I would consider fancy,” second-year coach Brad Hess said. “We’re doing stuff that’s going to help us be successful with the guys that we have.
“That one guy carrying the ball, yeah he has an important job holding onto the ball, but it’s those other 10 guys that better be blocking for him that’s going to make the play happen.”
Simplicity is often king in high school football. Teach a handful of plays, formations, schemes, run them extremely well and block and tackle effectively to make it work. It’s often the quickest route to getting the most out of the available talent, and for plugging in new talent season after season.
Hess says there is no hero ball there. It’s balanced, simple and ultimately effective.
And when one watched the Warriors operate, you can see that philosophy and attitude played out. The cluster of backs in the pistol isn’t going to be complicated, but a few reads and a mess of lead blockers help make things go.
“We definitely work on executing the plays that we have,” senior linebacker/tailback Jacob Love said. “It’s not a lot of hard stuff. It’s just getting it down so we know it well so we can perform in the game.”
It was that sort of philosophy that helped the Warriors turn around. The team had gone five seasons since its last non-losing campaign, with only four total wins the previous three seasons.
The team will get one notable piece back in Love (37 carries, 199 rushing yards), but perhaps what’s more interesting is who might be able to step up.
And the pool of candidates has grown considerably.
After last season’s resurgence and with rising expectations, Hess staged a recruiting push of which college coaches might be jealous. Wes-Del’s student enrollment was only 275 as of the last count. The roster midway through camp stands at 52.
That number could be considered healthy at schools much larger than Wes-Del. Even with the loss of a dozen seniors, the team will boast 13 this year.
It means the team has more options, more pieces to work with and perhaps enough rotation for no true starters. Hess even said there’s more size up front, which includes Jacob Gentry at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and Brenton Robinson at 6-foot-3, 225.
And the new roster provides a few welcomed challenges.
“We have 50 jerseys I think, and we have a couple kids that I don’t even think have a gameday jersey,” senior lineman Dylan Huff said. “Last week at the scrimmage, we had people say they’d never seen a team this big before.”
Hess noted at times there were not enough helmets to go around, and Love said things have gotten awfully tight in the locker room.
All this, a season removed from back-to-back one-win seasons. Some of it owes to the quick turnaround and some to the simplicity and attitude that provide the bedrock.
But however one parses out the root factors, it means an important new reality for the student-athletes at the school.
“They’re wanting to be Warriors,” Hess said. “So that’s a cool thing for us.”
Contact sports writer Ben Breiner at 213-5848. Follow him on Twitter @BenBreinerTSP.
Yorktown, Delta ranked by IFCA
Yorktown is ranked No. 6 in Class 3A in the opening Indiana Football Coaches Association poll. Delta comes in at No. 8 in the same rankings. Monroe Central is receiving votes in Class A.