Whittell Warriors have many new faces but same high expectations
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — New faces will be all over the gridiron this year at Whittell.
Graduated are longtime faces that led the Warriors football program over the past few seasons and in steps another group of athletes ready to make names for themselves.
“There’s a lot of key positions to fill, big names and personalities to replace,” said second-year head coach Doug Patton. “We have the talent. I’m excited to watch these guys blossom into genuine football heroes. It’s time for them to stand up and announce their presence with authority.”
The Warriors, after a rough start to the season, finished with three straight dominating wins and in a three-way tie for second place, the last playoff qualifying spot, but lost a close tiebreaker.
They were the only conference team, other than class 1A 8-man West League champion Virginia City, to finish the season above .500 (5-4, 2-2 Northern).
They again have high hopes and expect to return to postseason after missing out last year for the first time in five years, but first, they all just want to come together and build a family atmosphere.
“This year I’m looking forward to having a good time with my teammates and building a family,” said lineman Danny Barrientos, the team’s lone senior. “This will be the last time I get to play high school football. You don’t get to play high school football twice.”
Finding positions for future stars
The biggest question facing Patton this year is who will be his general on offense.
After two years of stars Isaiah Womack and Trent Dingman barking signals, and Dismas Womack in 2016, the Warriors have zero quarterbacks with high school experience.
But in the wings is another Womack who has stepped up early during summer practice, Malachi, a junior.
Womack is the team’s returning leader rusher (12 car, 161 yards, 2 TD) but is eyeing that quarterback spot. He played there during his Pop Warner days, but not as a freshman or sophomore.
Womack has turned into a leader for Patton early on.
“I kinda felt I always had a voice, but since I was an underclassmen I don’t think I really got the opportunity to use it,” Womack said. “Now that I’m older I can actually use my voice.”
Patton said junior Jack Forvilly will also get a chance behind center, and that he has had a terrific offseason in the weight room.
Forvilly was listed as lineman last year, but that’s because Whittell had its skill positions filled by highly-skilled dudes.
“Practices are sorting things out,” Patton said on a Friday morning while his team practiced on the beach in Zephyr Cove. “People are standing out in certain positions. There’s a lot of talent and there’s a lot of people that had to watch very talented players last year that are hungry to become that themselves. They’re looking up to the challenge.”
When he decides on his QB, the next question is who will run the ball.
Maybe that’s not so much a question after seeing junior Jack White’s quick feet in the sand during an early-August practice on the beach.
White, or “Whitey,” is the team’s second returning rusher (20-119-1) and Forvilly (4-16) is the third.
“It feels like we’re running pretty smoothly right now,” White said. “I’m not gonna lie, in the beginning before the season started I was worried because of the talent we lost like Isaiah and Dalton. I’ve been with them since I started high school. But right now we’re looking pretty good and I’m excited.”
Wherever those three play, maybe even receiver, Patton is excited to watch what they can do.
“Whitey, Malachi and Jack are going to step into some big spots,” Patton said.
No matter who carries the ball, Patton is excited about how good his line, led by Barrientos, can be.
Barrientos started the last two seasons. He earned the Most Improved award as a sophomore and last year claimed the Warriors Award, given to the player who most displays a team-first attitude, is dependable, trustworthy and willing to do anything for the Warrior family.
“Danny has been all that for us and it was easy to give him that award,” Patton said.
Juniors Mason Brown and DC Nelson are returning linemen and Patton is high on an incoming freshman Zeke Zeff.
“We have some pretty big kids this year, especially with our freshman Zeke,” Barrientos said. “We have a pretty big line compared to the last couple of years. We should be set.”
Nelson was also seeing time in the backfield, blocking for White and also getting some carries.
“Our line should be ridiculous,” Patton said. “Mason is going to be huge, DC was our most improved player last year and can play wherever we need him and Zeke has a chance to be an all-league lineman.”
Numbers are short, not expectations
Whittell is short on numbers this season, with around 12 players as of early August.
Most of the athletes written about above will turn around and line up defensively.
If the Warriors had to put 11 players out there on each side of the ball, they’d have problems.
But this is 8-man, so they have a few substitutes and hopes remain high.
“We obviously don’t have the numbers we want but we have a solid group and they’re working their butts off and learning fast,” Womack said. “We’ve got to expect a lot from the younger guys and junior class. But I think we’ll have a solid season if we can keep our numbers.”
The same strength on offense should be a similar strength on defense, the line.
Forvilly and White are two of the team’s top returning tacklers along with Womack, who says he loves playing linebacker.
Patton says the Warriors should be good to go if his players have fun and don’t get injured.
“Have fun, stay healthy and win, I wanna make playoffs,” Patton said. “That’s always a goal. The first goal is to make playoffs, second is to win that first game and the third is to win that second game.”