When Trey Newton hears people talk about the field, he realizes the culture is changing.
No longer is it known as Westminster’s soccer field, home of those annual title-contending teams. No, it’s getting a second name, one that’s related to gridiron success.
“We’ve always been known as a soccer school, and for good reason,” said Newton, a defensive lineman for the Wildcats. “We’ve always had good soccer teams. But now people are starting to call that field the football field. It just shows how we’ve moved toward football and embraced it.”
Athletically, Westminster has really been a soccer school. The boys and girls soccer teams have won a combined six state crowns, the most recent by the girls this spring against Augusta Prep.
But maybe football is joining the sports conversation.
Through six games this football season, Westminster has won all six, already beating the win total of the previous two seasons, when it went 1-9 and then 4-6 in the first two years of varsity football.
In the past, athletes played football but weren’t necessarily football players. But numbers – and confidence – are up.
So has the physical nature. Early on, players didn’t know how to hit. Now, after spending more and more time in the weight room, they’re getting stronger and thus more confident.
When the team breaks huddles, sometimes they’ll even say, “hit.”
“When I first started, people were a little scared to hit,” said Taylor Robertson, who is the team’s leading receiver. “But we’ve gotten really used to hitting now.”
In 2011, Westminster allowed 29.9 points per game; it has lowered that average to 10.2 this season.
The offense has also done well. Quarterback Tim Nabholz has thrown for nearly 800 yards and has 12 touchdown passes. On the ground, running back Josh Jackson and his 323 rushing yards help keep the offense balanced.
Even so, the work isn’t done. Coach Andrew Bryan will talk about all the progress, of the wins and the changing culture – and then quickly add the program’s not where he really wants it to be, at least not yet.
But it’s getting there.
“We got a tough road these next few games, no doubt about it,” Bryan said about his team, which begins region play on Friday.
“But regardless of what happens now, I tell my kids all the time, ‘We play the best we can play, and that’s success.’ ”