Western Hills’ football team is looking for a few more wins this season, and the Wolverines have the upperclassmen to make that happen.
WHHS has gone 1-9 the past two seasons, playing a lot of sophomores and freshmen during that run.
This year the Wolverines have 11 seniors and nine juniors, with upperclassmen comprising nearly half of the roster.
Western Hills opens the season on the road Friday at Owen County. Other non-district games are at home against Franklin County and West Jessamine and on the road against Frankfort High.
WHHS opens district play Sept. 26 at Bourbon County.
“After two 1-9 seasons, the big thing for us is to get some early wins and get some confidence going into district games,” WHHS coach Don Miller said.
The Wolverines were a tough-luck team last season, losing three games — all district match-ups — by a total of 11 points.
To help in that regard, the Wolverines have been working on protecting the ball.
“This year we’re emphasizing ball security, ball control,” Miller said. “The biggest thing for everyone who’s played football, when you have three or four turnovers a game it’s hard to win a game.
“Coach (Aaron) Hall, our offensive coordinator, has done a great job implementing some ball security drills, keeping the ball tucked away.”
WHHS returns several key players from last year, including quarterback Nick Young, running back Nick Lockett and special teams specialist Cody Williams, all seniors.
Defensive standouts returning include linebacker Tyree Childress, defensive end Angelo Cordones, and defensive back Blake Noel, all seniors.
Noel is currently out with a knee injury.
“Blake being out has hurt a little bit, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Miller said. “He’s a leader, and we hope to get him back sometime.”
Lockett was the leading rusher and receiver for WHHS last season, rushing for 984 yards and nine touchdowns on 104 carries, and catching 18 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns.
Childress finished last season with 41 solo tackles and 19 assists with four tackles for loss, and Williams returned 18 kickoffs for 455 yards to lead the Wolverines.
It’s that kind of experience that’s the Wolverines’ biggest strength.
“It goes back to our upperclassmen,” Miller said. “We have juniors and seniors, and they’re able to pick up where we left off. They understand what we want to do, and we’re moving along quicker than we have in the past.”
Miller said the Wolverines have good size and some speed to go along with that.
“Up front we have decent size,” he said. “Overall we’re bigger than in years past when you’d see a JV team out there. This year we’ll have a real varsity team out there playing.
“Last year we platooned our offensive and defensive lines, and I think that helped. We return Corey Miracle, Dylan Tackett, Micheal Baker and Eli Stamper.
“We have two coming up, (sophomores) Damien Carpenter and Andrew Hannah, who have good size and are pretty agile for linemen. They have decent speed, and they could help us on the defensive line also.”
Speed is especially prevalent among the Wolverines’ starters.
“We have speed with our number ones. It drops off a little bit with our second string. Our ones have the ability to be on the field with anybody.”
Bourbon County, which went undefeated in the regular season last year, is the district favorite again this season. The Colonels reached the semifinals of the Class 3A state playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Belfry 21-13. They finished the year 13-1.
The other teams in the district are Bath County, Powell County, Garrard County and Estill County. The top four teams in the district advance to post-season play.
WHHS didn’t win a district game last season but lost to Garrard County by one point (8-7), Estill County by three points (35-32) and Bath County by a touchdown (34-27).
“We’re working on closing out games,” Miller said, “just finish when we get to the fourth quarter. Finish and execute and bring home the ‘W.’”
To do that, the Wolverines will need to stay healthy. Last season Western Hills started the year with several injuries, but this year Noel is currently the only one sidelined.
“Obviously numbers are a big issue for us,” Miller said. “We can’t afford to get anyone hurt. If we stay healthy I feel really good about the team this year.”
WESTERN HILLS ROSTER
1 Justin Jenkins RB/WR/DB 10
2 Blake Noel WR/DB 12
3 Caeden Yett QB/WR/LB 10
4 Cody Williams RB/WR/DB 12
5 Daniel Childress RB/WR/DB 11
6 Thurman Seals WR/DB 10
7 Nicholas Valentine RB/WR/DB 10
8 Ravon Woodhouse WR/DB 12
10 Nick Young QB/LB 12
12 Keagan Newton RB/WR/DB 11
13 Shawn Goodlett WR/DB 10
14 J’len Youngblood QB/WR/DB 9
20 Nick Lockett RB/WR/DB 12
21 DJ Green RB/WR/DB 11
22 John Elder RB/WR/DB 11
23 Trevor James WR/DB 10
24 Evan Hanus RB/WR/DB 10
25 Krishawn Mayes QB/WR/DB 9
32 Garrett Hodeapp WR/DB 9
33 Chandler Johnson WR/DB 9
34 Tyree Childress WR/DB 12
42 Hunter Clark DL 12
50 Garrtett Brock OL/DL 9
52 Kyler Campbell OL/DL 11
54 Corey Miracle OL/DL 11
55 Dylan Tackett OL/DL 11
56 Eli Stamper OL/DL 11
56 Angelo Cordones OL/DL 12
57 Damien Carpenter OL/DL 10
69 Travis Smith OL/DL 12
72 Andrew Hannah OL/DL 10
76 Micheal Baker OL/DL 12
79 Logan Floyd OL/DL 10
79 Kyle McWhirt OL/DL 10
80 Bryan Litterall WR/DB 12
81 Trey Jackson WR/DB 9
83 Seth Pickard K 11
88 Evan Akers OL/DL/WR 10