WAPAKONETA — Wapakoneta is looking to reload and ready themselves for a big playoff run but will need to fill out some skilled positions if they are going to produce another winning season in 2020.
The run-oriented Redskins, led by Evan Kaeck who led the league in rushing with 1,117 yards, bulldozed their way to the league title and a postseason berth last season.
Defensively, the Redskins, who had a tenacious front seven, also led by Kaeck and co., limited opponents to 83 points for the season Kaeck, along with a host of other all-league performers are gone and head coach Travis Moyer is looking for his upperclassmen to fill those voids and remains confident this will happen.
One major reason for Moyer’s optimism is based on the tradition the Redskins have established within the program.
“I can’t say enough about that team last year in terms the effort that they gave and I am really proud where the program is right now,” Moyer said. “We have extremely high expectations going into this year.”
Moyer said moving players in and out each year has become customary at Wapakoneta and has not deterred them from consistently winning and Moyer expects the same from this year’s squad.
“Guys have understood the importance of hard work and stepping into those positions and competing at a high level,” Moyer said. “The guys that we have this year we expect big things out of them and our goals haven’t changed.”
Throughout the Moyer era, the goals are to win the WBL title, make the playoffs and win state.
Moyer adds that even though they have had success with this formula nothing is guaranteed and the team has a lot of hard work ahead of them to attain those lofty expectations and he said that there is even higher expectations from these guys who gained some valuable experience last season.
Moyer is a big believer in the offseason and said they are working a little behind after the pandemic pretty much wiped out the conditioning done in the spring and the camps in the summer.
“Our kids continue to do what we have asked of them and worked extremely hard in the summer since we have gotten back,” Moyer said.
On offense, Moyer said everything starts up front with the guys in the trenches.
“I think those guys up front play a huge part on a Friday night in the success of our team and even though those guys might not get the recognition on the outside world for us they are extremely critical, both the offensive line and defensive line,” Moyer said.
The Redskins are looking to replace three All-WBL performers on the offensive line that included Tyler Shroyer, a third-team all state performer, and Zeke Arnett, and Eric Carpenter, both second team All-WBL honorees. Also graduated was All-WBL tight end Isaac Meeks.
Trevor Houts returns at one of the guard spots and Keith Houser will man one of the tackle spots. Expected to see time on the offensive line are Alex Houser, Tyler Houser and Nolan Sutton working at the tackle position. Trevor Houts returns at one of the guard spots. Cale Rostorfor is also Blaine Hurley expected to see time at the guard position
Cooper Talowsky and Patrick Schultz are competing for playing time at center and Brandon Schneider and Trevor Crow will vie for the tight end job.
The biggest hole to fill for the skilled players will be Kaeck. The three-year starter and all-time Redskins leader in rushing provided the yardage and time consuming minutes that was key in the team’s success last season.
“It is not fair to anyone to say that you are going to replace Evan Kaeck,” Moyer said. “He was an outstanding football player and helped us tremendously and won a lot of football games here.”
Tailback Connor McDonald, who was ninth in the WBL in rushing with **** yards, provides a different style of running with more speed on the outside.
Also expected to get a shot to shine in the backfield will be Jacob Schroeder, Connor McDonald, Zach Rogers and Chase Mullins. Kaden Siefring, who was a receiver last season makes the move to fullback this season.
At the quarterback position and the Redskins will need to replace Reed Merricle who provided a a dual threat. Doing most of his damage on the ground, Merricle rushed for more than (((( yards and passed for ((( yards.
Taking over the duties behind the center will be Braedon Goulet, a 6-1, 170-pound junior. He saw action at several positions on the offense but it will be his first year as the signal caller.
Moyer said it is really critical for the guys around him help him adjust to his new position.
Noah Ambos, a three-year starter, solidifies the receiving corps at the split end slot and will be one of those veteran players to make the transition easier for Goulet.
Garrett Siefring, a senior, and Austin Stauffer will be competing for minutes at the flanker position.
“You look at our offense and say we have the ability to effectively run the ball last year and I think that is the one thing we always want to do here is run the ball effectively,” Moyer said. “We said good-bye to some very good football players and these guys are going to have to work extremely hard to uphold that.”
Without scrimmages or seven on seven drills, Moyer said the first three games will be crucial in terms of the offense finding its chemistry.
“We have always taken a lot in terms of our seven-on-sevens and our scrimmages to evaluate what we have in terms of our positions and things we need to improve on and anytime you lose those you got to do your best as a football team in terms of judging and fortunately we have an experienced staff that have seen guys that have been successful in those positions,” Moyer said. “It is going to be very important to coach our kids to the best of our ability and they continue to learn.”
Moyer added the one thing they have tried to instill in practice is a more one-on-one mentality to gear the players ready for the real deal.
Defensively, the Redskins also find themselves searching for new players to fill voids due to the graduation. Unlike last season the seven upfront is where the Redskins find new players getting an opportunity. The defensive backfield returns three of its four starters.
“We are a little bit of cycle where last year we returned a lot of our upfront guys and were inexperienced in the secondary and this year we return some experience in the secondary and replace some guys up front,” Moyer said.On the defensive line, the Redskins lost ends Meeks, the WBL defensive lineman of the year who is attending Ashland University and Jake Lee.
Coming in this season will be Rostorfor Tyler Houser and Schneider working at those positions and competing for minutes.
Back to anchor the line at the defensive tackle spot is Keith Houser, an All-WBL performer and All-Northwest district choice. Also vying for minutes are Austin Brown, Talkowsky, Owen Sutton and Ethan Kirby.
“When you say good-bye to three of the front four its tough,” Moyer said. “We understand the importance of our offensive and defensive lines so we have guys there that are going to have to work extremely hard and get to the point where they are competing at a high level.”
Kaeck, who was also effective as a linebacker, will need to be replaced but Garrett Siefring, a three-year starter, is back for the Redskins. Looking to replace Kaeck in the middle is Meckstroth.
Caden Siefring and Chase Mullins will look to replace Merricle as the outside linebacker. Merricle was an all-league performer at that position.
The secondary appears to be the Redskins strong point with a trio of returning starters in Crow, Ambos and Goulet. Schroeder and Rogers will seek to fill the other cornerback position.
“By having three of the four guys back is definitely helpful of being the rock of our defense right now,” Moyer said. “We feel like we have some quality football players at the positions right now and we need to take a hard look at who can get the job done and how fast they can develop.
“For us to win championships we have to be very, very good on defense and that is something we take a lot of pride.”
With the six game season, Moyer understands the importance of getting off to a good start.
“We know we have to be very good out of the gate and we have to get guys as ready as quickly as we can and compete at a high level and the thing is we have to win those games early on and that puts a pressure on us,” Moyer said. “We have been in that position before but for us we do have some guys back with varsity experience and hopefully that will help us this year. It will be a big challenge and a big challenge to identify who our leaders will be.”