It begins and ends on the line for the Wildcats, who are seeking their sixth straight playoff appearance and 16th in the past 19 seasons under coach Gerry Romberg. They’ve reached the second round of the playoffs for five straight seasons but hope to break through that barrier in 2012.
“We just don’t get enough linemen here,” Romberg said. “That’s my concern. I want to create some depth where we don’t have all those guys going both ways. To me, regardless, you win it or lose it in the trenches and that’s going to be the key for us.”
Westminster recovered from a 1-4 start to advance to the playoffs last year. The Wildcats routed Callaway in the opening round before falling to Dublin, 44-20.
Westminster’s looking for big things from junior two-way lineman Sam Schmal (25 tackles, one sack), who stood out during summer workouts and will be counted on to anchor the offensive and defensive fronts. Clay Smith will likely be used at either center or offensive tackle, and Justin Geeza, Robert Howell and Harrison McCamy are also expected to be contributors in the trenches.
The Wildcats lost their fair share of weapons, including lineman Sam Jowers, quarterback Danny Catan and running backs Parker Tuthill and Shelton Collier, but they return exciting talent at skill positions.
The Wildcats know they’re going with junior Jake Forte at quarterback, who’s impressed coaches with his physical attributes and knowledge of the offense. Forte saw brief duty last season behind Catan, although he was limited by a back injury.
“This year, Jake is the guy we’re counting on,” Romberg said. “He’s No. 1 going into the summer and proved that during the spring.”
The same goes for playmaker Cameron Seward, also a junior, who ran for 210 yards on 25 carries (8.4 yards per rush) last season. He will line up at tailback and slot receiver for the Wildcats on offense and at outside linebacker on defense.
“[We’ll] find different ways to get him the ball,” Romberg said. “Just line him up in the I-formation or in the Wildcat, or give him the ball on sweeps and things like that.”
Nigel Walker returns as well to provide depth at running back. He came on strong at the end of last season to replace Seward and Tuthill and wound up leading the team with 693 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
At linebacker alongside Seward will potentially be Reid Love, Nelson Douglas and Harrison Woodward, while shoring up the secondary with Walker and Jake Johnson are Douglas, Conrad Cordell, Hays Meyer and Kyle Murphy.
The Wildcats can’t expect any team to have a better special teams weapon this fall than their own Harrison Butker, the preseason All-State kicker who committed to Georgia Tech this summer after making 16 of 17 field goals last fall. He’s practiced kicking off the ground in preparation for the college transition.
“I almost feel like I’m kicking better off the ground because I’m a soccer player and it seems more natural, a more natural movement for me,” Butker said.
Aug. 24 at Blessed Trinity
Aug. 31 St. Pius X
Sept. 7 at Laney
Sept. 14 Thomasville
Sept. 21 Woodward Academy
Sept. 28 at Thomson
Oct. 12 at Greater Atlanta Christian*
Oct. 19 at Wesleyan*
Nov. 2 Lovett*
Nov. 9 Hapeville Charter*
*denotes region game