Whitewater looks to get back on track
Whitewater High's football program has fallen on hard times.
The Whippets have won only three games over the last three years, including an 0-9 campaign in 2016.
First-year coach Jim Pease isn't promising an immediate turnaround in 2017, but he does believe the Whippets can be much more competitive thanks to a strong senior class.
“Obviously, we'd like to have more kids out, but we're very pleased with what we do have,” Pease said. “We've got great senior leadership, and now it's a matter of learning the new system and getting everything installed.
“The attitude has been really good, and the kids are actually using last season as a motivational tool.”
Pease, who had nine years of coaching experience at Sussex Hamilton, will direct the defense. Whitewater allowed 48.7 points per game last season.
“It's going to be a very team-oriented defense, where everyone has to take care of their job and responsibility for us to be successful,” Pease said. “One guy doesn't do it. It's a team concept.”
Whitewater will run mainly out of a 4-3 base on defense with some 5-3 mixed in.
Jimmy DuVal headlines what should be an improved linebacking core. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound senior will be joined by senior Tyler Sheffield, junior Hunter Abramson and sophomore Cooper Pease.
The secondary features all-Rock Valley selection Will Leibbrand, seniors Daniel Fuller and Tyler Lippens, sophomore Ismael Barajas and senior Dylan Hansen.
Senior Arturo Frano (5-9, 257), junior Hunter Martin, sophomore Justin Mitchell and senior Alex Alvarez (6-2, 228) will lead the rotation on the defensive line.
“Games are usually won in the fourth quarter, so the defense has to do their job and not give up as many points,” Pease said. “I think it's not only going to be a very athletic defense, but one with some strength, as well.”
Fuller will direct an offense that will run out of multiple sets. The 6-4, 190-pounder is a three-year starter at quarterback and en excellent leader, according to Pease.
“Daniel can really throw the ball,” Pease said. “Our job is to do a much better job of protecting him than we've done the last couple of years.”
DuVal, who was a first-team all-conference and all-area pick last year, Leibbrand and Cooper Pease should provide a productive workload in the backfield.
Gehrig Monday and Lippens should be Fuller's top targets.
Abramson is the likely starter at center, with senior Carlos Martinez is a returning starter at right tackle.
Coach Pease isn't making any guarantees but knows the Whippets have nowhere to go but up.
“We're going to take it one game at a time, because that's the best way to gain confidence,” Pease said. “Our goal is to work hard and be in every game in the fourth quarter with a chance to win it.”