Whittell football aims to continue recent trend of success in 2016 season
Whittell Football 2016 Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Loyalton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Eureka, 7 p.m.
*Sept. 16 vs. Coleville, 7 p.m.
*Sept. 23 vs. Virginia City, 6 p.m.
*Oct. 1 at Smith Valley, 1 p.m.
*Oct. 7 at Pyramid Lake, 7 p.m.
*Oct. 14 at Mineral County, 7 p.m.
*Oct. 21 vs. Excel Christian, 6 p.m.
*Oct. 27 vs. Sierra Lutheran, 6 p.m.
Home games in bold
*1A West League
The Whittell football program has experienced a fair share of success during the past two seasons. And the 2016 Warriors plan to continue that positive trend.
“They want to be what everybody was in front of them,” said Whittell third-year head coach Phil Bryant. “They’re all bought in, working hard and have a different mindset.”
Whittell has a 20-4 combined record under Bryant, quickly transforming into an eight-man power in Nevada. Last season, the Warriors won their first 11 games and a league title before falling in the Div. IV State championship to Paharanagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) — the Panthers now own the national eight-man record for consecutive wins.
“A lot of these juniors have only known that success as freshmen and sophomores,” Bryant said. “They’re really confident and they believe in themselves and all those things, but what has happened in the past two years doesn’t make any difference for what happens now on the field.”
The Warriors open their 2016 season Friday, Sept. 2, against Loyalton (Calif.) at 7 p.m. The most significant change on the field for Whittell comes in the form of a new quarterback — senior Dismas Womack.
“I’m really proud of his leadership — he’s stepped up more as a leader,” Bryant said. “Dismas is super confident — almost to the point of cocky — and he has to realize he has all these tools around him.”
As a sophomore, Womack played primarily at receiver and had 651 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year, the 6-foot-3-inch athlete moved to running back and finished with 762 yards and 20 total touchdowns. In his final season at Whittell, he is taking on a new challenge.
“He’s efficient [throwing] when he keeps his footwork and fundamentals,” Bryant said. “It’s when he gets a little excited and rushes things that he starts to make mistakes.”
Bryant said he expects the Warriors to run twice as much as they pass this season, and keep the ball on the ground slightly more than in 2015. Whittell’s ground game is anchored by junior Corey Huber, who enters the season with 2,555 career rushing yards and 27 touchdowns — including a team-high 1,620 yards last year.
“The biggest thing we have going is team speed,” Bryant said. “When Dismas gets into the secondary, nobody is going to catch him — and nobody is going to catch Corey.”
Junior Caleb Moretti will also see some carries when not playing tight end. Whittell’s newest threat in the running game is sophomore Dalton Warswick, a transfer from Douglas (Minden, Nev.) that will bring power on the ground.
“Even though we’re primarily juniors, I would be disappointed if we weren’t a contending team,” Bryant said. “They believe in the system.”
On the defensive side, Whittell has allowed only two scores in two weeks of scrimmages — including nothing against the first unit. Warswick and senior Kai Mangiaracina have started the season as the Warriors’ down linemen, providing the team’s first line of defense.
Led by defensive coordinator Doug Patton, the Warriors will line up similarly when opponents have the ball — but with a new wrinkle. Whittell will mix man-to-man and zone coverage, and expects a solid pass defense with a secondary that features juniors Huber and Genaro Mena along with sophomores Isaiah Womack and Gunnar Barnwell.
“The progress on that side of the ball has been really good,” Bryant said. “We need to get consistent play out of the defensive ends.”
Bryant said the Warriors’ biggest challenge with the season approaching is finding consistency, typical of most football teams in August. A major part of that comes down to execution, and making the plays that are there rather than trying to make a big play on every down.
“We find ourselves with guys getting a little overanxious,” Bryant said. “Guys trying to make big plays instead of the right play — we have to get them calmed down a little more to where they understand that difference.”
In the first four weeks of the season, Whittell will play two playoff teams from last year — at Eureka (Nev.) on Sept. 9 and at home against Virginia City on Sept. 23. During that stretch, the Warriors open 1A West League play with a home game against Coleville on Sept. 16.
“Those games will tell us where we are,” Bryant said. “We’re hoping we can get things done the right way.”