Coach: Bill Shaw, first season
League: AV-CTL III
Last season: 3-6
Returning starters: 14
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Schedule: Sept. 1, at Mulvane; Sept. 8, at Wellington; Sept. 15, Clearwater; Sept. 22, KC Harmon; Sept. 29, at Rose Hill; Oct. 6, Independence; Oct. 13, Circle; Oct. 20, at Buhler; Oct. 26, at Andale.
Projected record: 3-6
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Junior Cody Wittenberg (6-3, 195) will take over at quarterback for Cade Morrow, an honorable-mention all-league selection last year. “He’s a very athletic kid, good speed and quickness, has got really good feet,” Shaw said. “We’re going to use him more of a run-pass option quarterback, get him rolled out on the edges, also implement him in our running game as well.”
2. Shaw said the Wildcats’ primary emphasis will be on running the football. “We want to focus on the running game, then fill in with the passes as well,” he said. Sophomore Jackson Schell will be the tailback with junior Braden Morgan at fullback, Shaw said. The two will share time with senior Hunter Armijo, whom Shaw said he will utilize at both positions.
3. Shaw, primarily a defensive coach, was a longtime defensive coordinator on Tom Young’s teams at Derby before coming to El Dorado. He plans to use multiple offensive sets. “We’re going to give our opponents several different looks,” he said.
Five questions with coach Bill Shaw
1. What has been the focus for you this summer?
“Our focus was to not only to improve the speed work, but also the agility so we got after it hard in the weight room. We really focused on developing these kids in the weight room. Not just seeing the core lifts, but also working on things like balance and quickness and agility. We tried to develop them as a total athlete, as well as working on the mental aspect of it as well. We’re trying to turn the page and turn the corner and making football a priority here in El Dorado. There’s been some down times here for several years. We’ve got some good kids, we really do. But sometimes you get stuck in that rut and it’s hard to get out. We’re working hard each and every day on the mental aspect of competiting, just as much as the physical part of it.”
2. What has been the biggest adjustment for you so far?
“This will actually be my third year in El Dorado teaching in the weight room, so I’ve had these kids in my room before and in other sports. It wasn’t an unknown to me who was coming out. The first thing I wanted to do was to install an offensive and defensive plan and a special teams plan that really fits our kids to the best of their abilities and not ask them to do something they aren’t capable of doing. That was the first thing I did. I rely on our coaches who have been with these kids the last few years and talked with them and about their strengths and weaknesses and finding something that fits best for them and I think we’ve done that. I guess you could it’s going to be a blend of the old style and the new style. We’re going to run the football north and south in some of the traditional sets back when I was coaching in the 70s and 80s, but we’ll also be blending in the spread stuff as well. We’re still going to run our same plays from all those different formations.”
3. How is the offense looking?
“I’m really enjoying and pleased with our offensive line so far. There’s a lot of seniors on there like Charlie Connell, Cameron Hunt, and Blake Davis. Blake has really improved his conditioning and he’s gotten quicker and mentally tougher. Cameron is coming off a torn ACL, but he worked really hard in his rehab and he got cleared in five months. And then we got a couple of juniors in Max Hunt and Ethan Hamilton. We tell our guys up front every day that they are the No. 1 key to our football team on the offensive side. They’ve got to be the valedictorians. Every team is going to throw multiple fronts at you and we’ve got to make sure we can block for our favorite plays no matter what we see. We don’t want to let the other team take away our bread-and-butter plays. At quarterback, we’ve got a junior in Cody Wittenburg who is a very gifted athlete and runs extremely well. He’s got good, quick feet. He gives us that dual threat and the ability to give him that run-pass option. We’re splitting our tailback between a sophomore and a senior in Kyle Bobbitt and Jackson Schell and we feel pretty good about those two back there.”
4. And how about the defense?
“With the size of the school we are, we’re going to have to play a lot of the kids both ways. We’re just not deep enough to platoon. So a lot of the names I just talked about on offense, you can just ditto them on the defensive side. We’ve got slightly over 60 kids out and the split is almost equal. We’ve got 30 freshmen and sophomores and then about 30 juniors and seniors. We’re going to try to do some multiple fronts and coverages and try to not let our opponents know exactly where we are at all times. We don’t want to give them the same look over and over and over. That’s kind of been my forte as a coach over the years. That’s what I did at Friends and as the defensive coordinator at Derby from 94 to 2008. It’s been more of an adjustment on my part to turn the defense over to another group of coaches and just focus on the offensive side.”
5. What’s the X-Factor for this team to be successful this season?
“I think the X-Factor is going to be getting off to a good start, whether that’s a big win (over Mulvane) in the first game or just a highly-competitive game whatever that may be. If we can get off to a good start and build confidence in our kids seeing what we’re doing is working, that the plan is working, then I think the mental part of the game will start to come around. If we can get them to start believing, then I think we’ll continue to grow and grow as a football team. We’re really striving hard to get that buy-in and everyone feeling good about what we’re doing out there. From what we’re hearing back, we’re headed down the right path.”