Warriors ready for Division IV
Tristan Beckwith: RB/LB/P
Alex Barnes: WR/SS
Jake Sharp: QB/CB
Colin Buchholtz: WR/CB
Max Primo: RB/SS/KR
WHITTELL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 24 at Virginia City, 10 a.m.
Aug. 30 vs. Silver Stage, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 vs. North Tahoe, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Coleville, 1 p.m. (Saturday)*
Sept. 27 vs. Pyramid Lake, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 4 vs. Smith Valley, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 11 at Dunsmuir, 6 p.m.
Oct. 19 vs. Mineral County, 1 p.m. (Saturday, homecoming)*
Oct. 25 at Virginia City, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 1 at Excel Christian, 7 p.m.
* Denotes league game
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — Seeing a football field packed with enough red and gold to simultaneously run offensive and defensive drills was a strange but welcome sight at Whittell High School this week.
The Warriors suited up in pads for the first time Monday and hit the practice field with a loaded roster. All underclassmen who played last season returned and everyone, except for one freshman, is eligible, something the Warriors struggled with last year.
Whittell also picked up a few new faces, namely a speedy track runner, to push their roster above 20 — staggering considering the high school has 126 students.
The beefed-up roster won’t change the already cemented division drop, but the Warriors are OK with that. In fact, they’re looking forward to eight-man football this year and, hopefully, a better shot at playoffs.
“Every year your goal needs to be to make the playoffs,” head coach David Housel said about entering the new division. “You do that and anything can happen. You’ve just got to give yourself that opportunity to get to playoffs and then you’re three games away.”
But making Division IV playoffs won’t be a cakewalk. Coleville, Virginia City and Mineral County will be tough to get past. Coleville was 8-1 last year. Virginia City was 9-2 and Mineral County was 7-3. Mineral County and Virginia City both made playoffs.
Last season, the Warriors faced two Division IV schools in preseason scrimmages. They lost to Tonopah 48-20, partly because they were unfamiliar with eight-man football, and then beat Smith Valley 88-22.
That was last year, however, when the Warriors had some big-ticket guys like All-League quarterback Austin Buyak, league-leading wide receiver Ty Sprock and All-State strong safety and league-leading running back Hughston Norton. The three seniors kept Whittell competitive, finishing 4-5 overall, in its final Division III year.
“Maybe position wise, we’re not quite as strong, but last year, if one of those guys went down we were just done. We weren’t even the same team,” Housel said. “This year, I think we’re a better team as a whole and our starters are going to be able to rest.”
Housel could be on to something because while this year’s Warriors may or may not have a Buyak, Sprock or Norton, they do have a steady supply of reliable starters. All the sophomores and juniors starting this year are coming in with playing experience, something that definitely couldn’t be said last year.
Despite the young team, the Warriors also have some size.
“We’ve got a couple guys who are over 200 pounds so we’re going to have a presence and strong defensive line,” Housel said. “I definitely don’t feel like people will be able to push our defense around.”
As a team, the Warriors gained 1,500 pounds in strength this summer.
“We’re going to have a big line. The only person we lost there was Kody (Dangtongdee),” Housel said.
The Warriors will also have some speed at running back. Senior Tristan Beckwith is stepping into the starting running back role, along with newcomer Max Primo, who is bringing some track and soccer speed to the position.
“Max is one of the fastest kids I’ve ever seen,” Housel said. “He has a good chance of being able to lead the league in rushing.”
Senior Alex Barnes is filling the defensive void Norton left at strong safety, and junior Jake Sharp will be the starting quarterback.
“We have heart and we’re very aggressive,” Sharp said. “Our line’s not afraid to hit anyone and I’m confident in them. We can do really well this season.”
Sharp won’t be operating in a swinging-gate offense this year since it won’t work with eight-man, but Housel still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
“We have strength up front,” Housel said, “and linebackers, safeties and corners who are versatile enough to be able to come up and stop the run and also fill the space, which is big in eight-man.”
UP FIRST: The Warriors will get a taste of their new Division IV competition during a league scrimmage on Saturday at Virginia City High School.
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