WAYNESFIELD – Waynesfield-Goshen head coach Shane Wireman said the Tigers are ready to take the next step.
Three years ago, Wireman inherited an 0-10 team, and in his first season he went 0-10. But two years ago, the Tigers ended their 24-game losing streak and recorded a 2-8 record. In 2018, Waynesfield-Goshen went 5-5, and Wireman believes this is the year the Tigers can vie for a possible Northwest Central Conference title and possible playoff berth.
The Tigers enter the 2019 campaign with 14 returning letter winners, and half of those players are seniors.
Wireman said the players came in anxious to play after last season, and he added they have seen a slight increase in numbers in the weight room and at two-a-days.
“Getting to that 5-5 mark and seeing some of that hard work pay off with the kids,” Wireman said, “has helped us in the weight room and helped with our attendance. We have had the best attendance weight room-wise since I have been here. We are getting 70 to 80 percent coming out, and I think we are getting bigger and stronger.”
The Tigers return a number of weapons on offense and it begins with the running game. The one-two puch of fullback Kyle Searson and Joel Rickle
Searson, who was a first-team, all-NWCC defensive player, amassed 617 yards on 101 carries and seven touchdowns. As the tailback Rickle gained 1,007 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Rickle so caught 15 catches for 188 yards.
Both Ricker and Searson were second-team, all-NWCC selection as running backs.
Behind the center will be Cooper Roberts, a sophomore, who became the starter last season after starter Evan Miller was injured in week three with a thumb injury and was moved to receiver.
Wireman added that Roberts as the quarterback helps them with the multiple sets that the Tigers like to run.
Wireman said Roberts has been improving over the summer and it has shown coming into the preseason.
Cooper will have plenty of effective targets to choose from in the receiving department. As mentioned, Miller returns as a receiver and Layton Campbell, who hauled 20 catches for 260 yards and 1 touchdown as sophomore, is also back.
Cole Schlegal, who was a receiver, will be the starting tight end and be another pass threat. Blake Barnes, a sophomore, will get some playing time in the backfield and as a receiver. Jordon Miller is also back as a receiver.
Waynsfield-Goshen’s right side of the offensive line is set with two-year starter Austin Burt and Josh Kirchner, a three-year starter.
Burt played center last season and got moved to tackle this year, so Wireman is searching for a center and will make a decision after two-a-days and scrimmages.
On the left side of the line, Ryder Sieberneck and Ty Little are back.
Wireman admitted that some of the players were initially not comfortable battling for a spot, but Wireman said that this is healthy for the team and engaging in fights for jobs is a good thing.
Wireman said in order for the Tiger offense to be successful they have to finish in the red zone and said that was a problem last season.
Defensively, like the offense, will see a number of players back.
Searson, a first-team, All-NWCC selection at linebacker last season, headlines the defense. In 2018, Searson recorded a total of 129 tackles, two sacks two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Like the offense, the defense has a host of returners.
Along with Searson in the middle and the Rickle and Josh Kirschner along with Blake Barnes fills out the linebacking corps.
On the line, Birt, Ty Little are back at the end positions and Caleb Garee and Jacob Augsburger manning the tackle spots.
“We are pretty experienced up front with three seniors and a junior so we have some good guys who have played in a lot of football games.”
The Tiger secondary will be manned by two seniors at the cornerback spot and a junior playing safety.
With expectations high, Wireman said the key for the Tigers will be to producing wins.