Coach: Weston Schartz, 24th season, 105-89
League: City League
Last season: 3-6
Returning starters: 14
Schedule: Sept. 1, Dodge City (at Northwest); Sept. 8, at South; Sept. 15, at Carroll; Sept 22, at Northwest; Sept. 29, at Great Bend; Oct. 6, North (at South); Oct. 13, Southeast (at South); Oct. 20, at East (at South).
Projected record: 5-3
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Without running back Kesean Deshazer, who transferred out-of-state, West will rely more heavily on Parks, a run-first quarterback. Jermaine Bell and Shakur Johnson will share time at tailback.
2. West returns eight defensive starters, a unit that helped West notch a late three-game winning streak by allowing 38 combined points.
3. Injuries damaged West throughout the year but a new season brings a return to health. Lineman Casey Glann and linebacker Isia Reed missed the entire 2016 season.
Five questions with coach Weston Schartz
1. You’ve had success making West better than what it was, but what’s the bigger goal for you?
“We’re headed in the right direction, but it’s time for us to make the next step and take our game to another level. We need to finish in the Top 2 or 3 of the City League. That’s our goal and that’s what we’re going to be shooting for. We’ve been in the middle and before I got here, they were really, really down, so we took them to the middle. But now we need to be in the top this year and continue our plan. And we’re going to do it. We’re going to, I really do believe that.”
2. How hard is that playing in a league with Carroll, Northwest, and Heights?
“Those three guys are the heavy hitters and we know it. We’re going to try to join them now. That’s our measuring stick in the league and we know we’re going to have to beat a Northwest or a Carroll or a Heights to be in the top of the league. We believe we can do it. We were 3-3 last year and this year we’re shooting for a 5-1, 4-2 type of season. It’s definitely doable.”
3. How is the offense looking?
“Well, we lost Kesean Deshazer in the summer. He moved away, but we’re going to have our two other running backs that are going ot be pretty special and then a lot of other guys coming back. We’ll have seven returning offensive starters off a team that averaged 30 points. We have Shakur Johnson and Jermaine Bell at tailback and then we’ll have Zion Parks back at quarterback. We’re just loaded at the skill positions. We feel really good about those guys. Then we get Casey Glann back from injury. He missed all of last season due to injury and he’s going to be one of the best in the area. Then we also have Jordan Rios, who is one of the best two-way guys around. We just feel really, really good about our team.”
4. How about the defense?
“We’ve got our whole secondary coming back. We get our whole line back. We were a team that got better as the year went on. Then again, the competition wasn’t the same late in the year as it was at the start. But we went up to Junction City and should have beat them in Week 9. We were right there within a touchdown until the last five minutes of the game and they got two cheap ones on us. Defensively, we’re going to be much improved. But the big thing about trying to beat Carroll and Northwest is that they have the luxury of playing kids only one way. We’re going to have play guys both ways to compete, so we’re going to have to play fast and hope we can sustain it into the fourth quarter against those guys. We’ve got a tough schedule.”
5. What’s it going to take for West to reach its goals in 2017?
“Last year we had five ACL injuries and five two-way starters go down before Week 2. That killed us. If we can get through the early part of our schedule without any major injuries, then that’s going to help us a ton. We like what we have, but we don’t have a ton of depth. That’s going to be a huge key for us. We have probably 25 really good football players, but some of the top teams in 6A have 30, 35 really good football players. So our depth isn’t like theirs.”