By Ray Hamill — The Wildcats return some key skill position players this fall, but they’ll need a new-look junior-heavy line to set the tone, as they get set for season opener on Friday night.
Seniors Jack Westfall and Kannon Christiansen are back to lead the way and the two playmakers will play a variety of roles on both sides of the ball.
The team’s season, however, will in large part come down to how effective the Cats can be in the trenches, as it does for every team.
“I just like their mental approach right now,” head coach Clint McClurg said of his players. “They’re really starting to form that bond.
“And the other thing, I just love our physicality.”
That physicality starts with the line, which is coming together nicely thanks to a group of fast-improving juniors.
After seeing some playing time as a sophomore last year, Kacey Luster will start at center, alongside fellow juniors Skiler Hall and Andrew Clevenger and seniors Braxten Zaugg and Nathan Wence.
A fourth junior, Juan Mena, also has shown a lot of improvement this summer and could be in line to win a starting spot.
“These guys have really started to come together,” McClurg said. “We’ve got some size, and we’ve got some athletes.”
Behind them, Westfall and Christiansen will be utilized in a variety of roles, along with a small but talented group of skill players.
Westfall, one of the best all-around athletes in the Little 4, will start at quarterback and will be a dual threat and more for the Cats.
“He can run, he can throw, he can catch,” the head coach said. “At the scrimmage (on Saturday), Jack Westfall was in full display.”
Christiansen, meanwhile, will play some tight end and receiver and will also carry the ball out of the backfield.
“He can run routes, and he’s so physical as a blocker,” McClurg said of the 6-foot-3 playmaker. “And he can also carry the ball.”
Junior Thomas Fergison will also see some time under center, where he will have the luxury of handing off to either Christiansen or Westfall, as well as playing some running back.
Out wide, the athletic and speedy Isaak Kasso, who is one of the top hurdlers in the H-DNL, will stretch the field along with Christiansen, something McClurg feels will really help a ground and pound team like the Wildcats.
Another skill player who has impressed is Trent Titus, who will see time at flyback and linebacker, as has Levi Dixon, who will see time at fullback and give the coaches a second threat at tight end.
Versatile junior Wes Renner also is expected to have an impact at a variety of roles and will see time at tight end, wing back, running back and receiver, while Chris Roman will play receiver and defensive back and has “done a good job developing,” according to the coach.
Rounding out a small but talented roster, junior Dayton Comer will also play a variety of roles, including safety, receiver, wing back, punter and kicker.
“He has a leg,” McClurg said.
A familiar face is also helping out with the coaching duties this year.
After suffering a devastating injury during last year’s Milk Can game, senior Cayden Collings is back with the team and has made his presence felt on the sidelines.
“He has a lot of knowledge to share and to give,” McClurg said. “He’s around and he’s going to keep giving back to the game. And he helps in so many ways. He’s always been a team player.”
The Wildcats, who will also field a JV team this fall, open the season at Fall River on Friday night.
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