Since then, Keller has played college ball at Ashland University, coached at Huntington for three years and spent the last five as a teacher and coach at Westfall, a program that has dominated SVC football and much of the surrounding area over that span. All of Keller’s time at Westfall has been under highly successful coach Scott Bartholomew, but after Bartholomew decided it was time to spend more time at home and less coaching the scarlet and gray, it was time for Keller – the team’s offensive coordinator – to take control of the staff in 2007. Although it’s his first head coaching job, Keller has been an integral part of the program, which has gone 32-3 in SVC play since 2002.
The domination is expected to continue.
“Even though it has been a big adjustment for me, it has been a nice transition so far,” Keller said when asked how his first off season as Westfall’s head coach was going. “Because I have been a part of it for the past five years under a head coach like Scott, it has made the transition a little easier than normal. I have a great respect for what the program has established, and I feel really fortunate to have such a great group of kids. I have been able to keep a lot of the staff on with me, and we are really excited about the upcoming season.”
Looking at the Westfall offense, the absence of All-Ohio QB Kevin Smith will be the main hole to fill. At this point, Keller and his staff are looking at a few options. Senior Adam Keller (no relation to Scott Keller) and junior D.J. Cain, who moves to Westfall from World Harvest, have both taken the summer snaps for the Mustangs.
Keller, who is also the Westfall punter, has the advantage of knowing the system and he also has some proven success under his belt. The senior has led the Mustangs to victory on a few occasions throughout his career when Smith was sidelined with injury. Keller is a pure passer that can make all the throws and has been eagerly waiting his chance to take over.
Coach Keller also likes what he sees out of Cain. He described his junior as having several “good quarterback characteristics,” but did say that he felt like his biggest challenge was just learning the offense and getting comfortable with it at this point.
Whoever Keller and his staff decide on at QB, it is safe to say that he will have more than enough help to get the job done. Westfall returns four starters up front (only losing right tackle, Dustin Arledge to graduation) and are two and even three deep at just about every offensive-line position. The Mustangs also return WR Jack Gose. The 6-4, 195 pound playmaker is a nightmare match up for opposing defenses and he is complemented by 6-3 junior Tyler Cobb and slot receiver Ben Kline (junior).
“Our versatility up front really gives us a chance to do a lot of different things on offense,” Keller said. “Coach Brad Smith does a great job with those guys and they really give our skill guys a chance to make plays. The thing I really like about our offense is that we can come out in several different formations without substituting at all. We have really smart football players that are experienced and very receptive to coaching. I think this will make it easier to utilize all of our weapons.”
That list of weapons for Keller seems like it continues forever. Westfall also returns the nucleus of its running game. Senior Seth Hardin, junior Bryant Gibson, and senior Drew Joyce will all contribute. All three are very good athletes that can also get involved in the passing game. Add all the pieces together, and the Westfall offense is sure to keep junior place-kicker Cameron Puckett busy.
Westfall is equally impressive on the defensive side of the ball. The Mustangs return 10 starters – including their entire front seven – and as a unit they are rock-solid in every facet.
“Our defense is fast, physical and extremely well-coached,” Keller said. “Defensive coordinator Todd Seymour does an incredible job. He teaches good solid fundamentals and does a great job utilizing all of his personnel. We definitely have some guys that are going to play both ways all the time, but we also use a lot of players one-and-a-half ways – meaning we can use them on one side of the ball pretty much all the time, but also use them to plug some holes on the other side. This philosophy really allows us to be a deeper team. It really makes us tough to wear down and allows us to put our best 11 athletes on the field at crucial times. ”
Westfall’s first three weeks will take on a familiar look. The Mustangs will prepare to defend their SVC title by first trying to maintain their bragging rights in Pickaway County. In Week 1, Westfall will travel to Ashville Teays Valley to do battle with the D-II Vikings. Then the Mustangs enjoy home field advantage in Weeks 2 and 3 when they host Logan Elm and Circleville.
“Our first goal every year here at Westfall is to win the Pickaway County games,” Keller said. “When I first got here, I didn’t truly understand just how big these rivalries were throughout the county. Now, I have a great appreciation for how special it is to the coaches, the players, and the county schools, and I will always want these games on our schedule. These games are a great test for our program. They really allow us as coaches to see where we are at as a team before entering league play.”
Westfall, considered by many to be heavy favorites to run the table in this year’s SVC, will have to go on the road four times within the seven game conference schedule, including trips to Bainbridge Paint Valley (Week 4), Chillicothe Zane Trace (Week 6), Chillicothe Huntington (Week 8) and Chillicothe Unioto (Week 10). Even though Westfall will play Frankfort Adena and Piketon at home in Weeks 7 and 9, respectively, most preseason polls say that these could be the two toughest obstacles for the Mustangs in their defense of the SVC crown.
“Our second goal is to win the league and if we do that, hopefully our third goal of making the playoffs will fall into place,” Keller said. “What’s nice about the group of kids that we have back is that they have experienced success. Early in their careers we seemed just happy to make the playoffs, but now that many of them are getting older, I see their expectations starting to rise. They not only want to win Pickaway County, win the SVC and make the playoffs, but they want to advance in the postseason.”