And despite a 0-11 campaign in 2009, second-year head coach Matt Kettler says this year's squad will surprise some folks and definitely give the Trojan football faithful something to cheer about.
"Believe it or not, this team has a swagger about them. Some people might think that after a bad year the kids might be a little down-in-the-mouth but this group is exactly the opposite. It's seems as if they've been waiting for this (season)," Kettler explained. "They felt that when this bunch were seniors, they would be pretty good. So the kids are very excited and we're certainly excited as well."
The Trojans will field one of the largest senior classes in school history ... 18 on the roster with most being front-line starters ... along with added numbers on the 2010 roster for much needed depth. Kettler feels that maturity and leadership is something that could lead WCHS to its first winning season since 2002.
"There are times we have to just calm this bunch down, they're so excited and ready to show what they can do," Kettler grinned. "I really think we're heading in the right direction and I think these great Trojan fans we will be rewarded this season. The guys on this squad have gone out and done a great job of recruiting from within the school to give us some extra personnel to look to when it comes to depth. "
When success begins to bounce the Trojans way in 2010, the WCHS coaching staff might point to one aspect that was different this summer in those of the past five seasons. The Trojans loaded up the bus in late July and headed to University of the Cumberlands in eastern Kentucky for summer camp.
Kettler feels that experience brought about a team unity that can't be matched. He also fells many of the kids did a little "growing up" which should means greater maturity on and off the field.
"We wanted to go to camp and get away from this area, get the kids away from home, their parents, girlfriends, video games ... all of those things that sometimes can be a distraction. We wanted to focus on football and preparing for that tough, football environment," he continued. "We got them out of bed each morning at 5:30 a.m. with a blowhorn, when it was still dark outside. We practiced three times a day and did everything as group ... eat, sleep, run, practice.
"Most of these kids had never been on a college campus and never seen the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Believe me, it was difficult for some of them at times, especially those early wake-up calls with the blowhorn. Our number one goal was to get better as a team and there's no doubt in anybody's mind that we got a lot better at camp. Now we're very excited to bring that success back and get on the field and show some teams how much we've improved," Kettler added.
Webster's biggest gain came in the passing game along with some senior leadership according to Kettler. When a seasoned quarterback in Landon Harting along with some sure-handed and speedy receivers (Laken Benson, Derrick Douglas, Zack Martin, James Nance), the Trojans will be looking to stretch defenses with is potent passing attack this season.
"We felt we could have a pretty good passing game, but maybe not to the degree we should at camp. We also had some seniors setup and carry this squad. And that's something every coach looks for in tough situations. It's easy to quit and pout when things are not going well or even when you're up on people," Kettler explained. "It's very difficult to lead when things aren't going your way. Camp was very hard for these kids, that was the whole point of going. And we saw some kids shine and really step-up in those tough situations and hopefully that's what we'll see during regular season."
Webster hopes to implement a very balanced offensive attack this season and not rely solely on the running game as was the case most of last season. A pair of experienced senior running backs, James Nance and Jamey Kennada, will pack the pigskin with a hard- hitting style along with newcomer Clay Putman, a junior.
"Jamey and James are going to come right at you with a very hard-nosed running game and some pretty good speed if they get in the clear. Clay is a mirror-image of those two guys and we're certainly glad to have him because he's a very talented athlete and a tremendous competitor," the coach added.
Laken Benson and Derrick Douglas, both seniors, showed flashes of greatness last season with their receiving skills. Kettler expects their role to grow this season as he hopes to spread opposing defenses with the passing game.
"We're going to throw the ball to them, no doubt about it. We have Landon (Harting) back again at quarterback and he's like a coach on the field. He's one of the smartest kids I've ever coached and we're going to turn him loose this year with his great arm and vision of the field," Kettler stated.
One huge area of improvement is WC's offensive line, which returns all but one starter. Seniors Jeremy Kelsey, Jacob Clinard and Jordan Sutton will anchor the line while the staff points to Zach Main and Bryce Capps and their improvement at camp as possible starters in the trenches.
Other starters include Jackie Pryor, Andrew Henry and Talen Hamela, all veterans from last season.
"Wow, they have all improved not only on the field but in the weight room as well. This line, on both sides of the ball, has really grown and gotten a lot better," Kettler said with a smile. "As a whole, we just feel like we're better in every area this year ... the line, running backs, receivers and quarterback. We feel like we can score on anybody and our kids will tell you the same thing ... but with much more swagger than me."
Kettler also noted that the WCHS depth chart continues to grow, especially personnel on the line. He hopes to take advantage of that depth in the early part of the season, giving his starters a "breather" in the hot and humid nights of August and allowing some quality playing time for reserves that hopefully will pay big dividends later in the year.
"We've got some kids that really worked hard and improved over the summer on the field and in the weight room and that will definitely make us a better team," he stated.
Kettler was quick to emphasis that the number one priority for the Trojans this summer was defense, everything else secondary. He called stopping the run as the key to success and that has been a big focus in pre-season practice sessions.
"We have to stop the run this season. We've made improvements, especially at camp, and we're still getting better at that. We're not where we want to be just yet, still have a long way to go. Basically, to stop the run, you just have to 'man-up' and get off the block and get to the football," Kettler explained. "We'll try to do some different things, different looks. But at the end of the day, you just have to line up and hit somebody and that's what we keep preaching to our kids."
Kettler has high praise for the skills of his defensive backs. Douglas, Harting and Benson will lead the way along with Zach Martin "We have a great secondary that can really create turnovers and our game plan is to make teams throw the football ... maybe do things they really don't want to do," Kettler stated. "If we get better at stopping the run, we're a team that can go from a poor defense last year to a very good defense this year. Throwing the ball into our secondary could really cause problems for opposing teams, so we're looking forward to see how much we've improved against the run."
The linebacker corps of Kennada, Nance, Putman and Eric Trent is certainly ready to 'man- up' and hit somebody, according to Kettler.
"They've really come a long, long way. They've all excelled in the weight room and our plan is to push the issue, stack our defense up front to make teams throw the ball," Kettler said. "We're gonna put our big guns up front to try and stop the run and dare teams to throw the football. We think this plan will really pay off for this year."
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