Whittell Warriors kickoff football season Friday at Mineral County | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell Warriors kickoff football season Friday at Mineral County

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — There's been a head coach change but the gridiron expectations remain the same at George Whittell High School.

Phil Bryant, the school's athletic director, who spent four years reviving the Warriors program by battling for league and state championships, stepped down and handed the reigns over to Doug Patton, his defensive coordinator for those highly successful seasons.

"We were all a little worried at first, but everything is going super well," said senior Isaiah Womack, the 8-man league's returning offensive player of the year who helped the Warriors finish 9-2 overall and 6-1 in league and earn a state playoff berth. "They have a lot of good ideas that are working really well. Our team is looking good."

The Warriors lost a total of seven games over the last four years and won a league championship in 2015. It's difficult being so successful year after year with a small public school in which enrollment ebbs and flows.

But the cupboards are still stocked with a ton of talent. The Warriors will have stars all over the field Friday, Aug. 31, when they open their season on the road against Mineral County.

"We have a really good corps of leaders and skills-wise, I don't think anybody can stick with us," said Patton, who will call the offensive plays with help from assistant coaches Ian Allen and Jeremy Branham and hand the defensive reigns over to Brian Moore. Those were all coaches who were there last year.

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Womack is part of a corps group of seniors that have stepped up to lead the team this season including Dalton Warswick, Trent Dingman, Gunnar Barnwell and Alexis Gonzalez.

"Alexis started last year and he's been the leader in the weight room, leading everybody in lifting," Patton said. "Isaiah is insanely talented. Trent, Dalton, it's across the board, the senior leaders are tough as nails and have taken control. They're not leaving one stone unturned and they're holding other teammates accountable. "

Warswick was a first-team all-league linebacker and also a second team running back. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound bruiser carried the heaviest load last year for the Warriors with a team-high 99 carries for 979 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season.

The fleet-footed Womack averaged just 20 yards a carry last year, gaining 1,369 yards while also throwing for almost 800 more.

Barnwell was an all-league first-teamer at defensive end/linebacker, Gonzales was given honorable mention on offense and the versatile Dingman looks poised to have a big season wherever he plays.

"People should still see us as a top team," Womack said. "Just because we lost a few good seniors doesn't mean we're gonna fall. We had guys coming up and I think we're gonna kill it this year, go out on top, undefeated through season and go into playoffs as a No. 1 seed."

The Warriors will start the season with three straight games on the road. They will spend over 20 hours on buses over those three weeks.

The first home game at Gary Lundergren Field at Lisa Maloff Athletic Facility will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, where a special dedication will be held for the new digs.

The Warriors this year play in the 8-man 1A West League and will play against four teams for the title including rival Virginia City, Sierra Lutheran, Excel Christian and Pyramid Lake.

Patton is getting used to the duties of being the boss, learning the "behind-the-scenes stuff" he never knew about like scheduling practice fields, scrimmages and communicating more with parents who he says has been supportive.

Patton has also made some changes to the offensive playbook and has received ideas and positive feedback from his corps group of players.

"We changed up a few things offensively, so they've been able to help with me with things I'm even unsure of," Patton said. "They know I'm not Phil and they have supported and believed in me throughout. Once those guys bought in, everybody else was right there."