W. Henderson preview: 10 returning defensive starters a plus

W. Henderson preview: 10 returning defensive starters a plus


W. Henderson preview: 10 returning defensive starters a plus


West Henderson's Stephen Perron is a returning senior linebacker for the Falcons this season. He made 133 tackles last season.

West Henderson’s Stephen Perron is a returning senior linebacker for the Falcons this season. He made 133 tackles last season.

MILLS RIVER – Last season was special for West Henderson, which won a playoff game at home for the first time in 24 years and finished with an 8-5 overall record, a significant improvement from a 1-10 mark in 2013.

The bad news is coach Paul Whitaker must find replacements for his entire backfield since running backs Cody Jackson (1,277 yards) and Dustie Fender (1,057) are gone, along with fullback Brendan Goings (907 yards) and quarterback William Crouch (more than 1,100 yards total offense).

The good news is the Falcons have 10 players returning who started at times for the defense.

“It’s comforting to know that we don’t have to rebuild there,” said Whitaker, whose team was eliminated in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs in 2014.

“The coaching staff feels good about the defense.”

West Henderson finished third in the Western North Carolina Athletic Association 3-A/2-A Conference with a 5-2 record, losing to champion Franklin and Pisgah, the second-place team, in a defensive struggle that ended 3-0.

After compiling a 7-4 record in the regular season, the Falcons beat Kings Mountain, 41-27, in the opening round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs before losing in the second round to East Rowan, 27-21.

Whitaker is encouraged by the fact that his last two junior varsity teams had winning seasons, which has helped create a more positive attitude within the football program. Before last season, the Falcons hadn’t had a winning varsity season since 2006, when they were 7-5.

Whitaker was named North Carolina’s football coach of the year by USA TODAY High School Sports for the job he did at West last season.

The 2011, ’12, and ’13 teams won a combined six games.

Among the returning players are four who accumulated 90 or more tackles last season, including Stephen Perron, a linebacker who accounted for 133 stops (10.4) average. The other three leading tacklers back are linebackers Tanner Bullock (116 tackles) and Landon Owen 96) and safety Tristan Thomas.

Other starters back from the defense are defensive end Davis Fisher, cornerbacks Dante Padilla and Tyreke Dunbar, linebacker Shaq Rospel, defensive back James Murray, and tackle Clay Privette.

“Some of those players came up in the middle of the season, but we have 10 who started some games and feel good about that,” Whitaker said.

On offense, Whitaker plans to start his son, junior Brandon Whitaker, at quarterback. Brandon started for the junior varsity last season. As for replacing three running backs who accounted for more than 3,000 yards, Whitaker is looking at Bullock, Rospel and Murray.

“They were in backup roles (on offense) last year, so they’ve at least been through the fire,” Whitaker said. “They understand what it takes to get to the next level of trying to win a conference championship.”

Returning to the offensive line are tackle Josh Wesson and guard Emet Gamez. Perron and Thomas alternated at tight end to help with the run blocking.

“Those linemen coming back will help the younger players adjust to their new roles,” Whitaker said.


Conference: WNC Athletic 3-A/2-A.
Coach: Paul Whitaker (18-40).
Offense: Flex-bone.
Defense: 3-5.
2014: 8-5, 5-2.
Returning starters: 13 (three offense, 10 defense).
Predicted conference finish: Fourth.

West Henderson Roster

No. | Player | Pos. | Yr.

1 Tristan Thomas TE/FS 12

2 Davis Phillips WR/DB 11

3 Brandon Whitaker QB/DB 11

4 Peyton Frisbee RB 11

7 Dalton Cole QB/DB 10

8 Daniel Jarvis RB/DB 12

9 Tyler Sem WR/DB 12

10 Max Chamberlain RB/LB 11

11 Kyler Stocks RB/LB 11

22 Stephen Perron LB 12

23 Landon Owen RB 11

24 Tyreke Dunbar RB/DB 12

25 Dante Padilla RB/DB 12

32 Chase Massey TE/DB 12

33 Shauquille Rospel RB/LB 11

34 James Murray RB/DB 12

35 Tanner Bullock FB/LB 12

42 Josh Penland RB/DB 12

43 Caleb Grubbs TE/LB 12

50 Davis Fisher OL/DL 12

51 Zeke Jones OL/DL 12

52 Clay Privette OL/DL 12

53 Alex Browning OL/DL 11

53 Grant McIntyre DB 9

54 Devin Stepp OL/LB 11

55 Emet Gamez OL/DE 12

63 Brandon Lovelace OL/DL 11

68 Dalton Clarke OL/DL 11

72 Jake Justice OL/DL 12

73 Josh Wesson OL/DL 12

76 Cameron Johnson OL/DL 11

77 Sam Gentry OL/DL 11

86 Pedro Gamez WR/DB 12


More USA TODAY High School Sports
W. Henderson preview: 10 returning defensive starters a plus
I found this story on USA TODAY High School Sports and wanted to share it with you: %link% For more high school stories, stats and videos, visit http://usatodayhss.com.