WESTMORELAND — Westmoreland’s 2018 schedule will present its share of challenges, but if the Bulldogs stay focused and avoid the injury bug, the outlook can be promising, according to longtime coach Tim Gates.
“This year we are competing in the Class D West with games against Beaver River, Sandy Creek, Cato-Meridian and Onondaga. Our non-league opponents will be Phoenix, Sauquoit and Dolgeville,” said Gates.
“Overall, our schedule presents us with many challenges, but if we practice and play the way we are capable and stay injury-free, we should be better because of it.”
The Bulldogs kick off their season on Saturday afternoon at 2 on the road against Class D West Division rival Beaver River. Their home opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. against Phoenix.
Westmoreland will carry just 21 players on its roster.
“Although this number is quite low, through hard work and a great attitude, the unselfish and dedicated young men from our high school who have made the choice to play varsity football will be competitive,” Gates said.
“Inexperience at all positions and a lack of depth will be issues at the beginning of the season, but as always, our expectations are to get better every week, be competitive in our division and be in the playoff picture at the end of the season.”
Gates said although there’s only a small group of returning players, they are motivated by the Bulldogs’ missed playoff opportunities in the last two years.
“They have been, and will continue to be, working hard to make the playoffs this year,” he said. “We are also working hard as players and coaches to replace key players from last year and put the best team on the field that we can. We are confident that through hard work, experience, a tremendous attitude and a little good fortune, we can begin to regain the success that we have enjoyed in the past.”
The varsity staff also includes assistant coaches Greg Williams, Jerry Fiorini, Angelo Cacciotti and Dan Smith.
Last year Westmoreland went 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the Class D Central to tie for second place in its division, only to miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Returning starters are senior offensive and defensive lineman Andrew Scalise, senior running back-defensive back Mike Alloggio, senior offensive and defensive lineman Jason Granger, senior wide receiver-defensive back Zach St. Peter, junior running back-defensive back Sean Klopfanstein and junior offensive and defensive lineman Dylan Elwood. Alloggio, Klopfanstien and Scalise are tri-captains.
Other key returning players include senior offensive and defensive lineman Austen Bowers, junior offensive and defensive lineman Mike Fiorini, junior wide receiver-defensive back Calvin Hooper, junior tight end and offensive and defensive lineman Justin Michaels, junior wide receiver-defensive back Tyler Wilczek and junior tight end-linebacker Cody Tarkowski.
First-year players include senior quarterback-running back-defensive back Dakota Collins, sophomore fullback-linebacker Rich Holmes, sophomore wide receiver-defensive back Austin Millington, sophomore wide receiver-defensive back Cadyn Patterson, sophomore quarterback-defensive back David Piersall, sophomore offensive and defensive lineman Jacob Peck, sophomore tight end-defensive end Tom Pick, sophomore offensive ans defensive lineman Ian Russell and freshman wide receiver-defensive back Javon Springer.
Gates said his team’s strengths, both offense and defense, lie in a “positive attitude and love for the game.”
Team weaknesses, he said, are an overall inexperience at all positions and depth in the offense, as well as inexperience and depth in the defense.
“Our special teams will be a tremendous question mark at the beginning of the season with the loss of all of our kickers from last year,” Gates said.
Scalise and Allogio will be two players to watch this season, the head coach said.
“Andrew plays offensive line and defensive line,” Gates said. “He is a captain and will be returning for his third year of varsity football. He has good leadership skills and will be relied on heavily by the Bulldogs this year.”
Added Gates, “Mike is a captain and is returning for his third year of varsity football. He has good athletic ability and tremendous heart and work ethic. He is a leader and will be counted on heavily on both sides of the ball as well as special teams.”