WEST ALEXANDRIA — Three seasons ago, they were 3-7. Two seasons ago, they were 5-5. A season ago, they were 7-2.
Twin Valley South has been building a strong football program under the direction of third year coach Tyler Cates, who has brought winning football back to Wes Alexandria.
The team will face a tall task this year, though, as they graduated several seniors from last year’s team – including first team All-Cross County Conference players in Wes Cole, Anthony Augspurger, and Tristan Sizemore.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year, but we have nine returning letterman. So obviously the goal is still to win the conference championship,” said head coach Tyler Cates. “Guys have to step up. There are some younger guys playing now and we don’t know how they are going to play on Friday nights. They are just going to have to step up.”
South’s senior class this season is not huge, only sporting seven players, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Five of them have started for multiple years and they also have two four-year starters out of that class.
“I expect them to be leaders of the team. They’ve been part of a 5-5 and 7-2 team. They’ve seen winning. They’ve seen close games. I want them to rally the troops when bad things happen and be leaders on and off the field,” said Cates. “Hopefully they’ll help us bring home a conference championship.”
Senior Jacob Bassler will step in as starting quarterback this season while Aaron Deaton will anchor the lines. J.J. Utz, another senior, will also play a big role for the team as a wideout, defensive back, and as the team’s kicker. Chad Ehler, a running back and linebacker, will also play a big role this season.
They pair the seven seniors with a very big junior class – led by Sammy Shockey – that is expected to step up in areas of need for the Panthers.
“I think they definitely believe they are winners. They understand what it takes to win. They are very hungry to get a taste of the playoffs. They were so close,” said Cates. “The work ethic has been amazing this year.”
South opens up their season this Friday, Aug. 28, when they host Dixie at 7 p.m.
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH