WESTBROOK - Trying to snap a string of sub-.500 seasons, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove football team plans on bringing back what made Charger football a state contender: counter, sweep, play-action.
"I don't care what the trend is, we're going to go back to what we do well," said WWG co-head coach Carter Ross.
But while WWG looks to turn back the clock in its approach, the team is faced with a new challenge in the Southern Confederacy Conference.
Photo by Joe Brown
Led by sophomore Mitchell Jarmer (5), a group of Westbrook-Walnut Grove players go through warmups before practice Wednesday in Westbrook. The Chargers open the 2012 campaign on Aug. 30 at Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman.
An 11-team conference in 2011, the Southern Confederacy expanded into a 14-team, two-division conference for 2012.
"We have some new faces, but that definitely puts a new spark in the program," said Chargers senior running back/linebacker Dana Madson. "We're pretty excited to get out there and see how it shakes out. This is a hard conference to walk into, and we'll definitely be there to represent our conference well."
Playing in the West division, the Chargers will take on conference newcomers Mountain Lake Area, Renville County West, Southwestern United and Fulda. RCW and Fulda come over from the Little Sioux Conference, while SW United comes over from the Southern Minnesota Conference. Mountain Lake comes off the heels of a split with Butterfield-Odin. The co-op of MLBO also played in the Southern Minnesota Conference.
"Just playing new teams, some fresh blood, its kind of fun," said co-head coach Leo Theisen. "I think some of these teams coming in are going to realize this conference is a pretty tough conference."
While teams like Fulda and RCW struggled in the Little Sioux, both teams add a degree of difficulty to the Southern Confederacy. The Chargers found that out first hand in last year's playoffs, when the Raiders defeated WWG 28-12 in the first round of the Section 3-9 man playoffs.
"We did that switching around the other way (from nine-man to 11-man) in the playoffs, and it's tough," Ross said. "It's not enough time to prepare. People think it's easy, it's not."
With the new conference lineup, the Chargers are up to the task of the new-look Southern Confederacy.
"They're walking into our conference, so we're going to keep doing what we're doing," Madson said. "They'll be walking into our way of things."
Anchored by a bulky offensive line, the goal for the Chargers is to reaffirm themselves as one of the most physical teams in the conference.
"With that size, it definitely does help," senior running back/defensive back Andrew Merrick said. "We got Tyler Schoborg and Lane (Anderson), and those are two big guys.
"The one nice thing with those guys is they bring speed and the attitude that they can block anyone, which is exactly what you want."
With just five seniors, building up some confidence early is a priority for WWG. Starting the season on Aug. 30 against Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman, another new team in the conference with Truman merging with GHEC, Theisen is hoping the Chargers can chain some wins together. After the opener, WWG sees Fulda and Nicollet before a road game with Edgerton/Ellsworth, the defending nine-man state champions.
"That first game is going to be so crucial for us," Theisen said. "I think if we can come out with that first win against Granada, I think things will start to steamroll a little bit. I think we can go 3-0 as long as we get that first one."