Burke breaking into role as Tigers' leader

Burke breaking into role as Tigers' leader

WESTVILLE — Fifteen seniors. That is what Westville football coach Guy Goodlove is attempting to replace in 2018.

One of those departed youngsters is Duncan Hathaway, who held down the Tigers' starting quarterback role the last two years.

He piled up 2,291 tossing yards and 32 touchdowns to just three interceptions in that time frame.

But even last year, someone was waiting in the wings.

Junior Raef Burke is ready to be Westville's playcaller, beginning Friday with a trip to Moweaqua Central A&M as teams around the state kick off their regular seasons.

"It's been a little different from what I'm used to because I've always had someone to watch," Burke said. "But after getting used to all of it, it's become a lot of fun."

Burke occasionally was called upon to replace Hathaway during the Tigers' 11-1 campaign last year, but he never was asked to throw a pass.

His cumulative offensive statistics for 2017 were 11 rushes for 111 yards and a single plunge into the end zone.

That's an element Goodlove expects Burke to bring with more consistency this season.

"Raef is one of our most athletic kids," Goodlove said. "He's a dual-threat quarterback. He does (passing and running) equally well, and we're going to take advantage of those skills."

Burke has prepared for this opportunity since his youth football days. Quarterback is a position he picked up during backyard games with older brother Briar, who was a lineman with the Tigers.

"I'd go out there and play with him," Raef Burke said. "He was a defensive player, so I'd always take off running with the ball."

Hathaway wasn't exactly shy about stretching the field with his legs — he posted 38 carries for 270 yards last year. But Burke anticipates doing even more in that regard.

"He was a lot more passing in the pocket," Burke said, "whereas I like to play out of the pocket."

Goodlove still is able to draw similarities between Burke and his predecessor.

Though Burke doesn't come off as the most boisterous kid, Goodlove said the 6-foot, 160-pound athlete knows when to make his presence felt among teammates.

"I think the one thing that both of them possess a lot of was leadership," Goodlove said. "Raef is able to make adjustments on the field. He's like another coach on the field, which is nice for us."

Burke appreciates that Goodlove and his staff "kind of let me do my thing" when it comes to his brand of guidance for the other Tigers. That's also something he picked up on while backing up Hathaway.

"Even if there's something not going our way, you have to keep the team encouraged and keep everyone motivated," Burke said.

Motivation should be abundant among the Westville roster after a heartbreaking end to 2017 — a year that ended with a 51-44 loss to Shelbyville in the Class 2A state quarterfinals.

Burke also can be glad that, while some key receiving targets have used up their prep eligibility, he still has the likes of senior Jake Lutchka and junior Dalton Rolinitis as pass targets.

Oh, and there's Burke's fleet feet. Can't forget about those.

"We're not going to put any reins on our athletes," Goodlove said. "Raef happens to be a very good athlete, and we want him to utilize those skills within the confines of our offense."

WESTVILLE'S 2018 Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Aug. 24 at Central A&M 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Dwight/Gardner-South Wilmington 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Clifton Central 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Salt Fork 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. HASAAP 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Westmont 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Oakwood 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Georgetown-Ridge Farm 7 p.m.

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