WAUSAU – The Warriors have been known for fielding a stout defense the past few seasons led by a standout linebacker corps.
West will look to continue that trend this season with a defense that features senior linebackers Logan Heise and Eric Adrian, both of whom received honorable mention consideration on the all-Valley Football Association North Division team last year.
“We have Logan and Eric coming back, but it’s not just about any individuals. That is what we want to stress,” West coach Kevin Grundy said. “No program is ever just a one-man team or a two- or three-person team. It takes everybody.
“The guys before (Heise and Adrian) have provided some great leadership (at linebacker),” Grundy added. “We talk about wanting that at every position.”
The Warriors are coming off a 7-4 season which included a win over Neenah in a WIAA Division 1 first round playoff game — just the second postseason victory in the program’s history.
West will be looking to make its third straight postseason appearance and has allowed an average of 11 and 15.8 points per game the past two years.
The Warriors graduated two first team all-VFA North selections on defense — lineman Logan Dennison and linebacker Jake Whalen — and Whalen was the conference’s defensive player of the year and co-offensive player of the year.
“Yeah, of course you are going to lose players every year,” Adrian said. “But we have some pretty good starters coming back and guys who are able to step up and fill those spots (due to graduation).
“The three linebackers we have now, we have high expectations set by guys like Jake Whalen and Cole Radloff — guys who went on to play in college,” Adrian added. “But we feel we are going to be able to step it up and fill those shoes.”
Senior lineman Brady Lenz was a first team all-conference pick last year and is a key returner for a Warriors offense that will have a new look as well.
The Warriors graduated quarterback David Seamon, who was a two-year starter. Junior Trevor Cunningham and sophomores Chandler Fochs and Mitch Michalske all took snaps at quarterback at the beginning of the Warriors camp.
“There’s a battle at every position,” Grundy said. “There’s nothing set in stone when (players) come back. There’s no starting unit planned up. We’ll make sure everyone gets reps in at their positions and we will field the best team that we possibly can. But everyone has an important role on the team, whether you are a starter or not.”
The Warriors will also have to adjust to the graduation of Whalen, Cutis Baine and Jake Kraimer from the offensive backfield. The trio combined to rush for 2,315 yards.
Payton Nelson and Jakob Tordsen could be two players West turns to this year.
“Payton Nelson didn’t play much at running back last season because he had Jake Kraimer in front of him. But Nelson is a heckuva running back,” Grundy said. “He’s tough to bring down.”
— Tim Johnson can be reached at 715-845-0731 or at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @timmyjo11
Coach: Kevin Grundy, 10th season.
Last year’s record: 7-4, 5-2 Valley Football Association-North Division
How far they got: Lost to Bay Port 41-14 in a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game
Key returners: Brady Lenz, sr., OL; Logan Heise, sr., LB/TE; Eric Adrian, sr., LB; Payton Nelson, jr., DB/RB; Sam Paoli, sr., DB/WR; Jakob Tordsen, jr., RB/DEB; S: John Cihlar, sr., OL/DL; Sully Phillips, jr., RB/DB; Paul Weise, jr., OL/DB.
Aug. 20: vs. SPASH
Aug. 27: at Wisconsin Rapids
Sept. 4: vs. D.C. Everest
Sept. 11: at Appleton North
Sept. 18: vs. Kaukauna
Sept.. 25: vs. Kimberly
Oct. 2: at Wausau East
Oct. 9: vs. Appleton East
Oct. 16: at Appleton West
Wausau West 27, Marshfield 20
SPASH 14, Wausau West 10
Wausau West 41, Appleton West 6
Wausau West 21, D.C. Everest 0
Appleton North 14, Wausau West 7
Wausau West 20, Kaukauna 6
Kimberly 34, Wausau West 7
Wausau West 34, Wausau East 10
Wausau West 13, Appleton East 3.
*Wausau West 30, Neenah 26
*Bay Port 41, Wausau West 14