WESTVILLE — Things worked out just fine for the Westville High School football team last fall.
The Tigers were 7-3 in a season where they started with a veteran offensive line, but an inexperienced backfield.
Coach Guy Goodlove hopes this season plays out as well. Westville faces the opposite scenario from 2011.
The team has a battle-tested backfield, led by tailback Shane Overshiner, who had eight 100-yard rushing games as a junior, and junior Kyle Brazas, a two-year football letterman. But, there’s little experience across the offensive front.
The schedule adds to the challenge. The first two weeks, the Tigers play schools picked by coaches to be among the top three in the Little Okaw Valley Conference (Villa Grove and Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement). The team opens Vermilion Valley Conference play with the league’s two favorites, Salt Fork and Bismarck-Henning.
All of those games, except for the one against Cerro Gordo, will be at home.
“The key will be how fast our offensive and defensive line develops and matures,” Goodlove said. “They have to learn in a hurry.”
The early practice results are favorable.
“They’ve done a good job,” said Goodlove, the school principal who is in his 18th year as the football head coach.
The guards are expected to be juniors Tyler Dicken (200 pounds) and Jeremy Rivers (185 pounds). Senior Dalton Burks (200 pounds) and junior Jake Pruitt (250 pounds) are the contenders at center.
The group at tackle includes seniors Briar Burke (225 pounds), Justin Parker (220 pounds) and Nick Woods (205 pounds) along with junior Tristan Flynn (245 pounds).
“We have some depth,” Goodlove said. “The potential is there to be very, very good. We have good size and good quickness everywhere.”
Overshiner was fourth in the area in rushing a year ago (1,647 yards) and scored 23 touchdowns. Brazas completed nearly half of his passes (56 of 116) and threw for 726 yards. Brazas, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark in passing in five games as a sophomore, also did the placekicking and booted 19 extra points.
Senior fullback Dakottah Burke will be the only newcomer in the backfield.
The receiving corps will be built around juniors Tanner Cox, Dalton Hilligoss and Jeffrey Thompson. Senior Trent Callison and junior Kaleb Smith are tight ends who will contribute.
“With the quality of our receivers, we can be as effective through the air (as on the ground),” Goodlove said. “I’d be disappointed if we can’t move the ball through the air. Our receivers, if they get their hands on it, will catch it.”
Parker and Rivers are returning starters on defense at ends.
Briar Burke, senior Mark Draper and Pruitt are among the top candidates at tackle.
Among the linebackers, Goodlove is searching, he said, for “guys who can move their feet and get to the ball with an attitude. We have to have people step up.”
Among the prospects are Dakottah Burke, Dicken, Hilligoss and Rivers.
Some of the quickest Tigers are looking for positions in the secondary, including Cox, Hilligoss, Overshiner, Thompson and senior Brian Cunningham. Cox is a returning starter and Thompson was in the regular rotation for playing time in 2011.
“We have the potential to be as good as we want to be,” Goodlove said. “It helps coming into the season when you have experience in the backfield. I feel better this year than going into last year.”
Goodlove, who reached the 100-career win mark last fall, has guided Westville into the playoffs for a school-record eight consecutive years, amassing 75 wins in that span.
The remainder of the Tigers’ coaching staff also includes Mike Acord, Larry Barney, Paul Miller, Todd Sarnecki and Eli Williams. They are working with 48 squad members, 15 of whom are freshmen. There are 10 seniors on the team.