What a difference one year can make.
Last year, the Warriors barely had enough players to finish out the season. This year, the team closed with a resounding win against a powerhouse program and 13 spots on the All-League roster.
No, there's nothing new in the water.
The Whittell High School football program made a complete turnaround this year behind a strong core of seniors and a new head coach named David Housel. Nine Warriors were named to the Division III North All-League team this week, and three of those guys made the cut multiple times.
Nine players may not sound monumental, but consider that Whittell is a student body of 147. That means 6 percent of the students are now All-League Football players.
"There was a good core group of seniors there and they worked hard," Housel said. "They're just hard workers. It's going to be hard losing those guys because they're great kids."
Seniors Austin Buyak, Ty Sprock, Kody Dangtondee, Hughston Norton, Cody Gibson and Garrett Bronken all earned a spot among the best. Underclassman Cody Wyatt, Alex Barnes and Tylor Buyak snagged honorable mention.
Sprock, Dangtongdee and Buyak were nominated for multiple positions.
Not surprisingly, Buyak made the list three times as a second team quarterback, linebacker and kicker. Buyak was also one vote shy of league MVP and two short of first team quarterback.
"We're a complete different team if Austin's not in. Some of the guys getting votes, if you remove them from the team they're still successful teams," Housel said. "It's easy to vote for a team like Lovelock with eight guys who are 200 or more pounds, but Austin didn't have that."
Buyak is actually the biggest guy on his team. Seeing the quarterback shake off multiple tackles and still complete the pass was common place this season. So was seeing him carry a couple players with him into the end zone.
Buyak completed 72-of-131 for 1208 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. He also picked up another 605 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing. His numbers were good enough to make him a top 10 league rusher this season.
Defensively, he came away with 68 tackles and two interceptions.
"He's a great leader and if we didn't have him we wouldn't have won the games that we did, which kind of surprises me as to how he did not get first team All-League in one if not all of his positions," Dangtongdee said.
Dangtongdee was an equally important leader for the Warriors this year. The co-captain was named first team offensive line and second team defensive line.
"He was always steady. He always knew exactly what to do and was able to tell others in their position what to do," Housel said. "He's smart and disciplined and everyone looked at him as a leader."
The Warriors offensive plan usually left Dangtongdee alone at center in the hot spot, but the senior was strong enough to carry the burden. Dangtongdee recorded 44 tackles, one caused fumble and two fumble recoveries. He was a rock on both sides of the line for Whittell.
Dangtongdee also received the Warrior award from Housel at the end of the season.
"It's not necessarily just the best player. It's somebody who embodies the spirit of the program," Housel said. "Kody was there all summer. He was leading the kids. He never missed practice. He never missed games. He played both ways and was a hard worker."
Sprock, who was named first team wide receiver, did miss some games, which makes it all the more impressive that he led the league in receiving at the end of regular season play.
"You look at Ty, who was the league-leading receiver, and he only played seven games. He played two games less than everyone else in the league," Housel said.
Sprock, who missed the beginning of the season for ski competitions, averaged about 100 yards a game once he finally hit the football field. He amassed 707 yards and eight touchdowns in seven games.
The senior was also named second team defensive back. He put up 22 tackles and snagged three interceptions.
Norton, the Warriors' leading running back and co-captain, came away with some equally impressive numbers from both sides of the line.
Norton led the league in rushing for most of the regular season. He is currently ranked No. 4 in league rushing, even with the extra help of postseason games.
Oddly enough, it was actually Norton's work on the D line that earned him a first team spot.
"Basically, he was going to go on first team for something because he was just that good of a defensive player," Housel said. "I just put him wherever I thought the other team was the strongest."
Defensively, Norton led the team with 96 tackles, three interceptions, three caused fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Offensively, Norton was just as intimidating. The lightening-fast running back left defenses in his dust all season long.
The senior rushed for 781 yards off 81 carries with six touchdowns. He collected another 297 yards receiving and three more touchdowns. By the end of the season, Norton averaged 80 yards a game and had found the end zone 14 times.
Bronken, Gibson, Wyatt, Barnes and Tylor Buyak rounded out Whittell's All-League selection with honorable mentions.
Bronken, who was new to the football field this year, kicked in two field goals and seven points after touchdown. The senior also recorded 38 tackled and a combined 191 yards rushing and receiving.
Senior teammate, Gibson, put down 35 tackles and grabbed two fumble recoveries.