West Salem Northwestern has six starters back, questions to answer

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Northwestern Huskies

Good things came in a small package for the 2007 Northwestern Huskies.
Despite being undersized, Northwestern put together a nine-win season
and earned a postseason berth. This year, Northwestern will face a new set of challenges, as only six starters return from the 2007 squad.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Konner Reid (6-2, 180, sr.), OLB/RB Garret Price (6-1, 210, OT/NG Jared Carpenter (6-5, 330, sr.), LB Nate Wellert (6-0, 165, sr.)

SEASON OUTLOOK

2007 Record: 9-2, Regional Quarterfinalist

Good things came in a small package for the 2007 Northwestern Huskies. Despite being undersized, Northwestern put together a nine-win season and earned a postseason berth.

“I felt it was a successful campaign, head coach Mike Thut said. “Our two losses were to a real good Waynedale team, which we lost to in the regular season and then lost to again in the playoffs in the first round. We had to play one of the teams from our own league. I was real happy with our players because last year I felt we were undersized and didn’t have a whole lot of experience. We had a lot of first-year starters, and they stepped up in a real big way. They were all seniors, and they performed how you hope seniors do. Even though they didn’t have a lot of varsity game experience, they played very well all season and ended up with a league championship.”

The team didn’t let a size advantage or the loss of a good group of seniors stand in the way of returning to the playoffs.

“We were a very small team,” Thut said. “On defense, 10 of our 11 starters were under 200 pounds. I think the kids realized that as long as you play as a team and play with a lot of heart that you could be very successful. Also, I think they learned that even though you’re not the biggest kids, you just have to keep working hard. I think also we graduated a really good senior class. The team that played in 2006 had a great two-year run. Most people in the community looked at us to not be very good, and I think we started to establish that maybe we have a little bit of a tradition built up and even though good players leave, there’s new ones to step right into their place.”

This year, Northwestern will face a new set of challenges, as only six starters return from the 2007 squad.

“We’re going to have to replace a lot of kids,” Thut said. “We lost eight starters on each side of the football. The returning starters are real good players; we’re real happy with them. The other young men are going to have to step up. We’re going to be playing a lot of sophomores this year.”

Thut says the team’s youth leaves several questions that need to be answered..

“There’s so many right now,” he said. “One key is we’re going to have to come together and play as a team. We don’t have any superstars. We have some good players but no superstars. On defense, we’re going to have to establish a physical toughness because they’re so young and they’re going to have to learn how to play on Friday nights. I think offensively, we’re replacing so many players. We’re replacing all our wide receivers, and they’re really going to have to grow up quick. Also we’re replacing four offensive linemen. Both areas, offensive line and wide receivers, are really going to have to grow up quick for us to be successful.”

But one thing the team can rely on is a returning starter at quarterback in senior Konner Reid. Reid passed for over 1200 yards and just three interceptions in 11 games.

“He had a great year,” Thut said. “He takes care of the football. For him to have that kind of year and still protect the football is very valuable. We hope he continues that.

“The key for him is to adjust to brand new receivers. He had all seniors to throw to last year.”

In addition, several players took steps in the offseason to continue the team’s success on the gridiron.

“I think a lot of them already started on some of those goals,” Thut said. “I like it when kids play other sports. Most of the kids that are going to be playing for us next year have been in basketball, wrestling, baseball, and track. They participate in other sports, and I think that teaches them to be competitive… the more they compete, the better they get.”

To return to the postseason, this year’s team will have to overcome several hurdles on the schedule, including last year’s nemesis, Waynedale, who will be strong once again.

“It opens up with two traditionally tough teams in the area, Crestview and Black River, who have been perennial playoff teams,” Thut said. “Now the last two years, maybe they haven’t been as great, but both of them from my conversations with their coaches feel they played a lot of young kids last year and are going to be pretty tough. Those are two tough teams to open up with, with a lot of inexperienced kids – two experienced teams, and we’re going to be very young. That’s a tough way to open your season.

“Then we get into our league play. The Wayne County League is always really tough, but I look at Waynedale and Hillsdale, who return so many good players, to be the class of the league.”

SCHEDULE

8/22 @ CRESTVIEW (ASHLAND)
8/29 BLACK RIVER (SULLIVAN)
9/5 MAPLETON (ASHLAND)
9/12 RITTMAN
9/19 @ NORWAYNE (CRESTON)
9/26 CHIPPEWA (DOYLESTOWN)
10/3 @ DALTON
10/10 SMITHVILLE
10/17 @ HILLSDALE (JEROMESVILLE)
10/24 @ WAYNEDALE (APPLE CREEK

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