The fall brings many things–a new school year, cooler weather –but most of all it kicks off a new season of Wildcat football. Despite an arduous start to the season with a tough early season schedule, the 2012 Westminster football team has shown a lot of promise and poise that could lead to a deep run in the playoffs next month.
The injury bug struck early this season as the Wildcats lost a few of their key contributors before the season even began. Senior Sterrett Woods tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prior to the start of the season and has been left on the sidelines since then.
“Spectating often leaves you feeling helpless; all you want to do is be on the field helping the team any way you can” said Woods “Although I am unable to strap up and have any presence on the practice and game fields, I try to be a positive and encouraging voice off the field, whether it be at lifting or in the locker room.” Woods has dealt with this same injury before and missing out on his senior season has been disappointing, but he is not the only senior left spectating. John Coffin understands Woods’ misfortune, having torn his ACL as well in lacrosse practice last April. Another key player for the Wildcats that fell victim to early-season injuries, junior offensive lineman Sam Schmal, has recently returned to the line up after a broken leg and wrist earlier in the season. Injuries, while unfavorable, have allowed younger players to step up and perform, but the returning players give this team the hope it needs to save the season and make a run in November.
The team got off to a rough start with only two wins in its first seven games; however, after a big win against Wesleyan last week things are starting to look up for the Wildcats.
In order to right the ship, senior captain Clay Smith has “just played hard and focused on [his] attitude and hoped that others may follow.” The Wildcats have a chance to get a victory against their crosstown rivals, the Lovett Lions. Despite their struggles, the team seems to think that they have the foundation in place for a successful finish to the season.
“The only changes that are really going to affect performance on Friday nights are the mental states of the players and how we approach each game,” said Woods. “We want to honor all those who came before that built the tradition of family.”
This year’s team has the talent to be dominant, including junior Cameron Seward, who has already received three offers to play at the next level. The team also has talented junior quarterback Jake Forte lining up behind center, as well as, former Northside Neighbor Athlete of the Week Hays Meyer.
“I didn’t even realize that it was going to happen until the paper came out,” said Meyer about winning the award. “I guess you just have to take it for what its worth, though. Stuff like that is a great honor, but it can ultimately become a distraction if you let it.”
Most notably, star kicker Harrison Butker committed to Georgia Tech this summer, giving the team its first Division I commit. In other words, the Wildcats have the talent to be a dominant team; they just need a few of their key players to return from injury and to sort out their chemistry over the bye week.
Considering that most of these seniors will not be playing any more football beyond this season, this is always an exciting time of year.
“It’s pretty bittersweet. On one hand, I have loved every minute of playing with this group of guys, and couldn’t be happier that I have invested so much time in this team,” said Meyer. “However, I’m going to be sad to see it end after this year.” On the other hand, some of the seniors are trying to not think about the inevitable end of their senior seasons and just want to leave everything on the field.
“It’s fun, I don’t think of it being my last season too much,” said Smith. “The only thing I can do is play as hard I can and enjoy it while I do it. And make the season last as long as possible.” The Wildcats are expecting a playoff berth and a run in November; if nothing else, they need to get hot for these seniors, so they can play a few extra games.
The Wildcats’ early season struggles might give them an advantage going forward; because of their slow start, they are being discredited and looked at as underdogs in every game ahead of them.
“I think our team is motivated by the fact that we’re usually always the underdogs. Schools around the state have a preconceived notion of what kind of team we’re going to be,” said Butker. “We have an extra push behind us to prove something every Friday night when we step on that field. We strive to show them that we are not who they think we are.”
With their slow start, the Wildcats are more motivated than ever; they are willing to do whatever it takes to get wins in their upcoming games against the aforementioned Lions and the Hapeville Charter School.
Watch Westminster dominate Hapeville Charter!