West Jefferson continued its meteoric rise in 2007, putting together its second consecutive 12-1 season. Only five years removed from an
0-10 mark, the Rougriders have established themselves as one of the top
teams in Central Ohio. Look for the trend to continue.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
LB/FB Shane Cahill (5-10, 195, sr.), LB/OL Drew Underwood (6-2, 205, sr.), TE/DE Eric Love (6-1, 205, sr.), WR/DB Eric Fisher (5-10, 165, sr.), QB D.J. Mendenhall (6-4, 175, jr.)
2007 Record: 12-1, Regional Finalist
West Jefferson continued its meteoric rise in 2007, putting together its second consecutive 12-1 season. Only five years removed from an 0-10 mark, the Rougriders have established themselves as one of the top teams in Central Ohio.
“Obviously coming off the last couple years for our football program, we’ve been fortunate enough to go 24-2,” head coach Shawn Buescher said. “Last year, we felt coming in there was a lot of question marks that we had to answer. We were very fortunate to have a very good senior class who was able to come in, and they had some valuable experience with some big-time contests the previous year, and obviously that helped us. We were able to build off the year before and eventually have a great year last year.”
Last year’s team fell short of winning game number 13 by state champion Maria Stein Marion Local.
“We have a lot of respect for not only Marion Local but the league they come from,” Buescher said. “We understand there’s a very good football program in Marion Local, and they come from a league that has produced many state championships, and we were excited about the opportunity to get the play such caliber of a football team. We feel to get our program to a level that we want, we need to play teams such as that. It’s a great experience for our kids and our coaches, and we just hope that we can have the opportunity in the future to play teams such as Marion Local in the playoffs again.”
This year’s team returns five starters on each side of the ball. Some quality players must be replaced, but the cupboard won’t be bare, either.
“We graduated a lot of good players again,” Buescher said. “Anytime you’ve been able to make two solid years like we have and make two good runs, you’re going to have some older players that you’ll miss after graduation, but we feel very good about the nucleus we have coming back. If we can continue to have the offseason we feel like we’ve had up to this point and build off that, we feel like we can come back and have another productive year.”
Two areas where the Roughriders were cleaned out after graduation were the offensive and defensive lines.
“On the offensive side of the ball we have to replace our entire offensive line, so obviously that’s going to be a project for us,” Buescher said. “We feel really good about our offensive line coach (Matt Adams); he does a great job, so I’m sure he’ll continue to work on developing some young men once the season starts. But obviously that is a question mark for us.
“Defensively, we lose a lot of our defensive front. Other than that, our back seven defensively, we return the majority of those young men as well as the majority of our skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.”
While the lines will need development, the skill positions seem to be in good shape.
“Some of our strengths I feel on both sides of the ball will be our skill,” Buescher said. “We feel very good about some of the skill we have coming back, and they do have some experience they got throughout the course of the last couple years, so obviously if they can build off the success they’ve had up to this point, we feel that can be one of our strengths.”
This year’s road to the postseason will be a little tougher for West Jefferson, who added Region 19 champion Columbus Bishop Ready to their non-conference slate.
“With our non-league schedule, we feel it’s very competitive,” Buescher said. “We open up with Mechanicsburg, who is a traditional Division VI power in our area. We play Madison Plains Week 2, which is a great contest for us. They are in our county and is a tremendous rivalry for us. We’re very excited about the addition in Week 3 of Bishop Ready. They’re close in proximity, and it’s something that our kids and I’m sure that their coaches and their kids are excited about. We’re hoping to build a great rivalry with them as well.”
The future continues to be bright for West Jefferson. The days of zero- and one-win seasons seem to be distant memories.
“We came in as a staff six years ago, and we set high expectations from the minute we walked in,” Buescher said. “We had a blueprint in place for a plan to turn the program around. Obviously when you come in to the type of situation we did, we knew it was going to take some time to get there. But we’ve been able to make steps each and every year towards getting not only better records, but better performances both on and off the field and in the community from our football team. So this has been an ongoing process for a while now, and obviously with the record we’ve had the past couple of years, a lot of people now statewide, they’re starting to look at our program again. But this didn’t happen overnight. The success we had started to take place on day one when we walked in six years ago.”
8/29 @ MADISON PLAINS (LONDON)
9/5 BISHOP READY (COLUMBUS)
9/12 @ LIBERTY UNION (BALTIMORE)
9/19 BERNE UNION (SUGAR GROVE)
9/26 @ GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS (COLUMBUS)
10/3 FISHER CATHOLIC (LANCASTER)
10/10 @ MILLERSPORT
10/17 HARVEST PREPARATORY
10/24 @ LICKING HEIGHTS (PATASKALA)