Five position battles to watch for in Westlake’s spring football game

Dylan Webber

It’s that time of the year again, as spring football practice is in session and the annual “blue vs. red” game is just around the corner. The blue team, which consists of the first team offensive unit paired with the second team defense, is set to take on the red team, whose setup is the opposite of the blue team. The game is at 5 p.m. May 21 at Chaparral Stadium. These teams are not yet complete, as a lot of the starting spots are still up for grabs. With a talented group of seniors now gone, it will be up to the underclassmen to step in and fill their shoes. While there are some returning starters, here are the five biggest position battles to keep your eye on in this week’s spring football game.

1: Defensive Tackle:

Coach Todd Dodge is transitioning his defense from a 4-2-5 to a 3-3-5 this season. With this, competition for starting defensive tackle stiffens, as only one player will man the spot. There are no returning varsity defensive tackles, so it’s a fresh group of players competing for the position. Juniors Ross McDonial and Joey Piotrowski are both quality candidates for the job, but it’s the young guns that look to be the most viable option. Freshman Sam Duffy and sophomore Jarrod Jacobson look like top-notch candidates. There are some concerns with the two underclassmen. With Sam, you wonder if the transition from freshman competition to varsity competition will be too big a leap. And with Jarrod, a converted linebacker, it would seem like he might need some time to adapt to a new position.

2: Left Defensive End:

The Chaps return one starter on the defensive line this year in junior right end  Elias Garcia. Elias, who had a dominant year last season, should have no trouble retaining that starting spot. But the big question mark is who will play opposite of Elias. Junior Andy Romanack, a converted tight end, is the presumed favorite at this point as this will be his second year on the varsity squad. He didn’t receive much playing time last season due to a heavy senior presence along the defensive line, in addition to having to spend the season adjusting to his new position. Behind him are juniors Thomas Talbert and Ty Henderson. Both two-time JV red players, each of them  has a real shot at passing up Andy in the spring game. Thomas’s athletic ability will serve him well in the competition, but if he can’t be more effective in the pass rush, he will come up short of the starting job.

3: Linebacker:

Westlake lost three quality senior linebackers this past year in Hudson Hall, Gabe Duran and Breckyn Hager. And while those are big shoes to fill, there is a plethora of candidates who can come in and help anchor the defense in the middle. Westlake returns three varsity linebackers this year, the number of linebackers Dodge’s defense calls for. These three players, junior Bryce Boisvert and sophomores Levi Jones and Hayden Bohlman, might seem like obvious choices, but two up-and-coming JV players might just take the job. Junior Brandon Williams and sophomore Will Stone look to make the most of the spring game as they push for one of those starting spots. Seeing as Hayden missed the beginning of spring football with injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of those JV players take his place.

4: Corner Back:

The deepest position on this list, several juniors who saw ample playing time return for the chaps. Juniors Ryan Rees, Steven Rioux and Ryan Marcus all started at least one game last season, so they’ll all have equal opportunity. An often overlooked player who should be making noise during the spring game is junior Matt Gibson. Matt, who competed for a varsity spot last year but was cut due to a heavy senior presence among the defensive backs, had a very strong season for the JV team. Look for him to be the surprise story of the spring game.

5: Running Back:

Running back is where Westlake needs the most work. The Chaps shuffled many different players in the role last season, trying to find some sort of groove. This season they will attempt the same thing as they look for someone to fill in as a true three-down back. Junior Caanan Clark-Bateman is the only returning running back from last year’s varsity team. He brings more experience than any other candidate, but not much. Both sophomore Steele O’Connor and freshman Isaiah Faz boast solid résumés, but also have their disadvantages. Isaiah has the same concerns as defensive tackle Sam Duffy, as they both have to make the hard jump from freshman football to varsity football. Steele shares a similar play style with Caanan, but lacks the his experience, which could hurt his chances of claiming the top spot.