Each day over the 2 1/2 weeks leading up to the 2019 IHSA football season, the News-Gazette will be previewing all 37 teams in its coverage area.
WESTVILLE — Success in sports doesn’t always come in longstanding waves.
Take what’s going on with the Westville football team, for instance.
Coach Guy Goodlove’s Tigers finished 10-1 in 2016 and 11-1 in 2017, making a run to the Class 2A Elite Eight in the latter campaign.
What followed was the exit of numerous key athletes, and Westville stumbling to a winless ledger.
“There’s a fire under everybody’s belt after going 0-9. Nobody really wants to do that,” senior quarterback Raef Burke said. “It shows that we have to work even harder if we want to make it somewhere.”
Last year’s squad boasted just two returning starters. The current Tigers will carry many more, but also will be a young club.
“We’ve got five seniors. There’ll still be some growing pains, and we understand that,” said Goodlove, entering his 25th year at Westville’s helm. “But we want to come out with a great attitude and give 100 percent effort and be in every ballgame.”
Goodlove felt his boys were competitive in a majority of their contests last season despite the lack of victories. And the Tigers certainly weren’t gifted an easy slate, as they wound up facing eight programs that won between five and nine games.
Considering who was taking the field for Westville the majority of the time, that rugged experience could lead to positive outcomes now.
“We gave a lot of young kids playing time last year. I think at one time we had six freshmen starting,” Goodlove said. “Hopefully that’ll pay off this year, and some of the mistakes that we made last year, hopefully we won’t make as many this year.”
Guys like Burke and senior wide receiver Dalton Rolinitis will be relied upon heavily to provide a spark — through both their play and leadership.
Burke is entering his second year under center, having thrown for 494 yards and rushed for 865 as a junior. Rolinitis was Burke’s favorite passing target, hauling in 26 catches for 247 yards and a pair of scores.
“We’ve just got to keep our mindset straight,” Rolinitis said. “We have to make sure we’re teaching the underclassmen what to do. There’s not many of us (seniors), but we have to step up because there isn’t many of us. We have to take care of it.”
Both Burke and Rolinitis can recall what it was like to be on the right side of the scoreboard more frequently earlier in their prep careers.
Being able to share that with those newer to Westville football could be critical to turning around results.
“I was ... starting in my sophomore season with the team that went to the Elite Eight,” Rolinitis said. “We’re going to ... have to start teaching the underclassmen how to play and win games in the varsity experience.”
One position group Goodlove is especially excited about is his offensive line.
He counts “five core kids” retained from the 2018 season’s line, some of whom are part of the Tigers’ 1,000-pound club — the combined weight of an athlete’s squat, deadlift and bench press.
“The expectations are high for that group,” Goodlove said. “We’ve always said that the offensive line is the heartbeat of the team, and as long as it’s performing properly then we’ll have a shot in every ballgame.”
Burke feels similarly about the guys tasked with protecting him on a weekly basis.
“Our strongest point right now is our linemen,” he said. “They really have made it better for us backs to be able to see the hole, hit the hole faster and really pick up the pace for us to be able to make those plays.”
Things still don’t project to be easy for the Tigers as far as the schedule is concerned.
A potentially strong Central A&M team travels to Vermilion County in Week 1, while recently-potent rivals Salt Fork and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin await in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively.
Goodlove and his charges aren’t concerned with any specific enemy at this point in time, though.
After being held from the win column the season prior, they only can focus on themselves.
“You don’t worry about yesterday and you don’t worry about tomorrow,” Goodlove said. “The only thing you can control is today, and we want to be better today than what we were yesterday.”
When you can see the Tigers
A look at Westville’s 2019 football schedule:DATE OPPONENT TIME
Aug. 30 vs. Central A&M 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 at South Beloit 2 p.m.
Sept. 13 vs. Clifton Central 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Salt Fork 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 vs. BHRA 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Hoopeston Area/A-P 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Oblong/Pal./Hutsonville 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Oakwood 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Georgetown-Ridge Farm 2 p.m.