West Jefferson ready for another lengthy ride with 14 starters back


West Jefferson Roughriders

West Jefferson put together another strong season in 2009, winning nine
games. It shouldn’t have come
as a surprise given the fact that the Roughriders have been one of
D-V’s stronger programs in recent years, but some observers still
may not have expected them to perform so well. What about this year?

West Jefferson
Division V
Region 20

2009 record: 9-2

* Players To Watch – LB/OL Brian Garen (5-10, 200, sr.), FB/LB T.J. Langermeier (5-10, 185, sr.), WR/CB/DB DJ Gray (6-0, 165, sr.), RB/DB Charlie Ramey (5-10, 175, sr.), OL/DE Jared Wheeler (6-3, 225, sr.)

* Outlook –
West Jefferson put together another strong season in 2009, winning nine games with two losses by a combined six points. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise given the fact that the Roughriders have been one of Division V’s stronger programs in recent years, but some observers still may not have expected West Jefferson to perform so well.

“Going into the year, I think a lot of people in the area probably thought we would go through a little bit of a rebuilding process,” head coach Shawn Buescher said. “Everybody around knew that we were returning a quarterback that was a three-year starter and was first-team all-state the year before, and they knew we had him we could build around. But other than that, we had a lot of first-year players. We knew we were going to be inexperienced. I thought the kids did a great job of buying into our system and continuing to focus and work hard, and we were able to come out and have a very productive year.”

The quarterback in question that led West Jefferson last year was D.J. Mendenhall, who had become a fixture at signal caller for the Rough Riders. Replacing him will be a tough task.

“He had a lot of starts under his belt,” Buescher said. “Not only was a three-year starter for us, but he started in seven playoff games. When you get that type of experience, obviously you’re able to do a lot of things on the field that a first-year guy might not be able to do. Besides that, he was a great leader for us. A lot of our kids looked to him to make plays on Friday nights, and he’s a great kid, so those are all things that we’ll miss.

“Not only do we lose him, but we lose some other quality people as well. So when it comes down to it, every year on the high school level you’re going to lose good people, and you’ve just got to make sure you find ways to try to replace them.”

The cupboard is far from bare for West Jefferson, however, as seven starters return on each side of the ball. And now it’s the task of those players to take over leadership roles. 

“We need those kids to be able to come to the forefront, to be able to do their job and have a productive season, and some of our role players from last year are going to have to make sure they can step forward and become leaders,” Buescher said. “If we can find that leadership and find kids to be accountable on Friday night, the wins should hopefully take care of themselves.”

So far during the offseason, the players have done what is needed of them in preparation to take the reins this year. 

 “I think our kids are working hard,” Buescher said. “I feel they understand what it takes to be a successful athlete, not just a football player. They know that by getting themselves in the weight room and working on their agility that will not only help them on Friday nights in the fall but will also help them in other sports they participate in.”

So even though an all-state quarterback and other key players have moved on, the Roughriders appear to have a solid foundation. Anyone who may have doubted them before last season might be better off to expect the wins to keep on coming this season.

“The big thing is we as a football staff have done everything we can to build a football program, not necessarily just a team,” Buescher said. “We do absolutely continue to build upon the success we’ve had here in the recent years. Our kids know our expectations and they know that they’re very high here, but I can honestly say that there are no expectations any higher on the outside than what it is on the inside of our football program. So our kids work hard, they earn the wins they get or the success they’ve been able to have, so I think this group will continue to do that.”

* Schedule –
The Roughriders will be renewing non-conference rivalries and facing some road challenges in-conference.

“We feel very good about our schedule,” Buescher said. “We have some very quality opponents. In the non-league, open up with Mechanicsburg at home. We play Madison Plains on the road, and then in Week 3 we’re going to renew our rivalry with London at home.

“Our league has been very challenging as of late. Liberty Union has had a lot of success in our league as of late, as has Licking Heights. So we feel good about our schedule. We know it’s going to be extremely challenging. A lot of those teams return some quality players, and they return some quality players, so we know we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

8/27      Mechanicsburg
9/3        at London Madison Plains
9/10      London
9/17      Sugar Grove Berne Union
9/24      at Columbus Grandview Heights
10/1      Lancaster Fisher Catholic
10/8      at Millersport
10/15    Canal Winchester Harvest Prep
10/22    at Pataskala Licking Heights
10/29    at Baltimore Liberty Union

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