Westminster senior safety A.J. Lewis is excited about his team this year for one major reason – tackling.
In their third year of existence, the Wildcats are starting to grasp the fundamentals. And after struggling on defense a year ago, Westminster’s players are learning how to hit.
“Coaches were emphasizing tackling and it just happened,” Lewis said. “We can hit way better.”
The Wildcats have made great strides since winning one game in their inaugural season in 2010. Westminster went 4-6 last season, notching its first win over a region opponent. Now, the team is looking to do even more.
“It gives us some momentum going into this year,” Wildcats coach Andrew Bryan said. “It shows the progress of our program.”
Westminster, which opened last year with a three-game winning streak, returns eight players on offense.
Senior quarterback Tim Nabholz is back to lead the spread offense, which also features Lewis at running back and senior wide receiver Taylor Robertson.
“It makes it tough to defend,” Nabholz said about the spread. “We’ve got a couple of receivers who need to be double-teamed, and you can’t double team everyone.”
The Wildcats return seven players for their 4-3 defense. Last year, the defense allowed 42 or more points in five of six region games. Some of the defensive issues can be attributed to the team’s depth last season.
In 2011, Westminster had just 27 players on the roster. This year, the number has increased to 34. Bryan said he’d ultimately like to have between 40-50 players on the roster so the school can start a junior varsity team.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “But we’re better now than we were.”
Bryan said he’s encouraged by the young players coming up through the program. Last season, Westminster’s middle school team went 6-0. Four freshmen who played on that squad likely will start for the Wildcats this season.