After going 6-5 and falling to Dawson County 27-3 in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs, Westminster is loading up for a return trip to the postseason and dreams of a championship.
The Wildcats lost running back Paul Weathington, a Princeton lacrosse signee who rushed for 490 yards before suffering a season-ending injury in Game 6 last year; linebacker/long snapper Will Benton (SMU signee and team’s leading tackler with 88 total stops); slot receiver/quarterback Will Hallmark (Furman signee and team’s leading rusher with 620 yards); defensive back Ayinde Green (41 tackles) and offensive/defensive lineman Charlie Wickliffe.
But Westminster welcomes back seven starters on offense and four on defense. The Wildcats will be bolstered by the return of two seniors – tight end/linebacker Lowell Jones (73 tackles; recruited by small colleges) and punter Connor Weselman (committed to Stanford; averaged 35.5 yards per punt) – and three juniors – tight end/defensive end Holden States (8 catches for 214 yards and 2 TDs; a member of the ESPN Top 300 who already has 35-plus scholarship offers including Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State), kicker Alex Bacchetta (12-for-14 on field goals; has received several Division I offers) and running back/linebacker Robert Clarke (480 all-purpose yards).
Sophomore quarterback John Collier, a Blessed Trinity transfer, could also make an impact. Those prospects prompted Westminster assistant coach Joe Sturniolo, speaking on behalf of head coach Gerry Romberg, to call the outlook for this season “excellent.”
“Strong defensive returners, new QB, special teams play that is outstanding,” he said. “We play in a tough region, which would strengthen us for the playoffs. … Injuries really hurt us last year. We lost three QBs at various times. We lost our leading rusher in Game 6. Our team was extremely adaptable last year; we had to become more flexible in everything from who played where, to what plays or coverages we could call.
“We won some games with outstanding defense, others where the offense stepped up (and) even won with special teams. That adaptation will be a benefit to us this year, especially if we can avoid some of the significant injuries that hit us last year.”