081419_MNS_Westminster_Will_Benton Will Benton

Westminster football player Will Benton (27) runs down the field during a home contest against Lovett in 2018.

Westminster had its standard strong season on the gridiron last fall with an eight-win campaign and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class 3A state playoffs.

The Wildcats are back at it preparing for the upcoming season.

“I thought we had a good summer,” Westminster coach Gerry Romberg said. “The main thing we do is strength training and conditioning because that’s the most important aspect of our football responsibilities. We have a lot of kids who play multiple sports which we encourage, such as baseball, lacrosse and basketball. We try to carve out time with them, and then two days a week we did installations. We ended the summer with one seven-on-seven competition, which went well.”

The Wildcats have made the postseason every season since 2007 and are one of only 10 programs in Georgia to make the quarterfinals of the state playoffs within the past five years.

“Our goal every year is to make the playoffs,” Romberg said. “We don’t put state championship as our ultimate goal at first because our focus is to make the postseason, and once you do that, you can then look to a state title. We play a difficult non-region schedule, and those are our preseason games to get ready for the region schedule. We’ve had a good run and set a legacy for our younger players to build on.”

Westminster will have to replace Parks Harber, who was the team’s starting quarterback and had 29 total touchdowns last season but has committed full-time to baseball this season. Junior Wyatt Stevenson and sophomore Denton Shamburger will compete for the starting spot.

“Both players were going to help us on defense but are going to have to focus on quarterback or may still be two-way players,” Romberg said. “That’s a huge question mark for us and may not be decided until we start the season, giving them both playing time.”

The Wildcats return senior running back Paul Weathington, who had a team-high 1,069 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2018. Senior Will Hallmark had a team-high nine rushing TDs last year. Junior Andrew Dotson will also receive carries this year.

“We’re going to run the ball more this year,” Romberg said.

Weathington added, “We had a good summer and got bigger, faster and stronger, which is important because we lost a lot of talent. I think we have younger guys who can step in because of the work they put in (during) the offseason.”

The receiving group includes seniors Wicker Croft, Philip Metzheiser and Tripp Wood. Senior Will Benton and junior Lowell Jones will be the team’s tight ends.

Senior Charlie Wickliffe is the lone returning lineman starter on offense and defense for Westminster. The rest of the linemen rotation will feature seniors Drew Berg and Sean Rolle, juniors Kiran Gadde and Ejike Adele and sophomore Brooks Platford.

“You’re only as good as your lines and the non-region games will allow us to set our starters and create depth,” Romberg said.

Adele had 36 tackles and four sacks last season on defense. Jones posted 38 tackles in 2018 as well. Dodson will be a starting defensive back alongside Hallmark and Croft.

Westminster will replace graduated senior placekicker Charlie Ham, who matriculated to Duke University, with junior Aidan Henry. Punting duties will be shared by junior Connor Weselman and sophomore Alex Bacchetta.

“We’re going to have to play really good defense with a competitive secondary,” Romberg said. “Offensively, finding our quarterback who is a good leader is a priority, as well as running the football to give ourselves a chance. Our offensive line will be key and take advantage of potential depth. We’ll also have to avoid injuries with so many of our guys playing both ways.”

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