Football 2014: West Pioneers
The playoff berth that West earned in 2013, its first since 2002, was an accomplishment that came earlier than coach Weston Schartz thought would happen in his second tenure with the Pioneers.
He had planned on getting to the playoffs in 2014, his third year back.
But since that success came earlier than expected, he’s now ratcheting up the expectations and looking for more improvement. Schartz wants to be in the top three of the City League.
It’s a reachable goal, to be sure.
“We won six games, and three of our losses we had were lopsided,” Schartz said. “We’ve got to close the gap with the upper-echelon teams. We’re no longer on the bottom. Last year at (6-4), we were in the middle. We’ve got to close the gap with the big boys.”
West, which last had a winning record in 2001, winning 22 games in that span, doesn’t play Carroll this season. The Pioneers move back up to 6A after eight seasons in 5A, and their toughest City League games are against Heights, Northwest and Kapaun, with their final regular-season game against Derby.
The Pioneers return 16 starters, including every player in the secondary.
Junior quarterback Chaz Capps has been waiting his turn, and he provides a threat to run or pass.
“Chaz is very, very tough,” Schartz said. “He’s an old-school quarterback. He runs the ball well. He’s not afraid to mix it up inside. He runs our option well. He has a strong arm. I can’t say enough about him.”
There’s speed in the backfield, speed on the lines, speed everywhere on defense. Every defensive lineman runs the 40-yard dash under 5.0, Schartz said.
“We don’t play a fat guy on defense,” Schartz said. “Let me be politically correct — we don’t play a slow guy on defense. They can all run.”
The offensive line returns five of six starters, and Schartz will use three fullbacks and four tailbacks in some form throughout the game.
Tyrell Saunders is a short-yardage back, or as Schartz calls him, a “monster” at 265 pounds. Junior Javon Reed, who has started since his freshman season, has got the speed but he’ll get the ball around 10 times a game to keep him fresh. Other backs include Waymon Carter, along with Terrell Rodriguez, who transferred from Salina Central.
What could make an even bigger difference in West’s improvement, though, is that only Marcus Malcolm is a two-way player.
Schartz looked at Carroll and Heights to see why they consistently beat the rest of the City League, and what he discovered as the primary difference is both teams platoon.
“We’d play with them for a while, and then we’d get worn down,” Schartz said. “We’ve got to build a little bit. I copied a little bit what they were doing. I don’t do it exactly the way they do it, because we can’t, but we’re building some depth here.”
A LOOK AT WEST
Coach: Weston Schartz, 18th season, 92-70
League: City League
Last season: 6-4, lost in first round of 5A playoffs
Last five seasons: 13-33
Projected 2014 playoff team? Yes
TOP SKILL PLAYERS
|Sept. 5||at Dodge City|
|Sept. 12||North (at NW)|
|Sept. 19||East (at NW)|
|Sept. 26||Kapaun (at Heights)|
|Oct. 3||at Northwest|
|Oct. 10||at Heights|
|Oct. 17||Wichita South (at Heights)|
|Oct. 24||at Campus|
|Oct. 31||at Derby|
Chaz Capps on his team
What West does well: “We are really, really good on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive side is really solid, and I know they’ll get after it. We won’t have to worry about the passing game, and our linebackers will take care of the run.”
What has to improve: “When we get to the playoffs, we have to play to our full potential. We were stricken by it. The game was too big for us because we made it too big for us.”