Westminster is known for its high-caliber boys and girls soccer programs. But now with football in its fifth season, junior middle linebacker Ethan Lynch is starting to see his sport break through.
“I think it’s cool to see a football culture develop at our school,” he said. “Introducing football has brought a closer bond with students and with teammates.”
That close bond comes from success the Wildcats have had the past two years. After a pair of winning campaigns, Westminster is looking to make its first postseason appearance. And it will attempt to do so with a new coach.
Steve Ackley replaced Andrew Bryan in the off-season; Bryan remains on as athletic director and as a football assistant. Ackley, 30, is a Liberty University graduate with seven years coaching experience.
Ackley, who is married to Holly and has three children – Chloe (4), Landon (2) and Paige (3 months) – has made his imprint on the team. During the summer, players lifted weights three to four times a week.
“Coach Ackley brought in more strength and conditioning to the team to help us get better prepared for the season,” junior running back Tumah Ngoh said. “Instead of getting knocked around, we knock around players.”
For the second year in a row, Westminster opened 2013 with six consecutive wins over non-region foes. And just like the previous season, the Wildcats lost all five region games to finish at 6-5. Despite the defeats, Westminster dropped two games by a combined nine points to Tattnall Square and Heritage School – the previous season, the Wildcats lost by a combined 64 points to the two schools.
“Coach Bryan has done a great job,” Ackley said. “This year, I think we have a chance to go out and play for a region championship.
“You’ve got to set goals. It’s high and lofty, but that’s still our goal.”
Westminster has 26 players on the roster, because of a large senior class that graduated. Next season, the team will expand to between 30-35 players because of a large eighth-grade class.
Despite the team’s numbers this season, Westminster still has a power backfield of Ngoh, Nigel Eaddy and Josh Jackson, who are expected to help drive the team’s multiple offense. Lynch will help anchor the team’s 4-3 defense.
Westminster, which adds Augusta Christian for the first time, will look to remain unbeaten against Augusta schools – the Wildcats are 6-0 against Augusta Prep and Curtis Baptist. Westminster plays six non-region teams before jumping into GISA Region 4-AAA play.
“We’re aiming for playoffs and to win the city,” Ngoh said, “and just give it 100 percent every game and every play.”