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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Westwood High School football team enters the 2018 season looking to rebound after a tough 3-8 campaign a year ago.
The last five years, Jake and Rob Antonucci have been workhorses for the Wolverines at both running back and receiver. With both now having graduated and gone on to college, Westwood will need a new set of players to step in and fill some big shoes in 2018, all while finding a new quarterback with 2017 starter Reed Wilson also having graduated.
Head coach Brad Pindell says that his team is ready to redeem themselves after last season’s up-and-down campaign and looks forward to seeing guys battle their way into full-time starting jobs.
“The vibe is good,” said Pindell. “The kids weren’t thrilled with the end result of last season and they want to try and get the program back on track. Last year’s seniors put in a lot of hard work and due to some injuries, we just didn’t have the season we were hoping for. This group put a lot of work in during the offseason and is pretty excited for this season. They are obviously setting their expectations high, but we’re just focused on taking this thing one game at a time. So I’d say overall, the attitude is good and we’re excited to get back out on the field and get back after it.”
Leading the Wolverines into battle this season will be five senior captains in wide-out/strong safety Braden Loughnane, offensive and defensive lineman Declan Burke, offensive and defensive lineman Miles Heespelink, tight end and linebacker Dominic Hough, and wide-out/defensive back Eli Maroun. Westwood has also seen a strong turnout in numbers, much of which can be credited to strong senior leadership, according to Coach Pindell.
“Our numbers are really high this year,” said Pindell. “Even though the team struggled overall [last year], there’s a lot of excitement around the program and what we’re building. It’s a very close team. We have a good group of leaders who have the rest of the kids excited and wanting to be around one another. Some kids who’ve been on the fence the last couple of years have decided to come out, and some of those kids can certainly help up. We have a lot of good young athletes and a lot to learn before the season starts, but I definitely think some of these newcomers can have an impact as the season goes on.”
Taking over the reins at running back this season will be a duo of juniors in Colin Fay and Shamar Hall, both of whom Pindell is high on and says will contribute significantly.
“We have a couple running backs who saw some significant time last year that are going to be huge for us this season in Colin Fay and Shamar Hall,” said Pindell. “I can see that continuing into this year. Both are different style of backs, but definitely give us a lot of versatility on offense and are solid varsity-level running backs. Between the two of them, we feel very comfortable and really excited about our running game.”
At quarterback, Westwood is also seeing a pair of juniors battle it out for the starting job in Jake Pfaff and Ben Goodrich.
“It’s been a good competition,” said Pindell. “We have two juniors fighting it out with Jake and Ben. They both did a lot of work throughout the summer to improve, and they both continue to push one another to try and get that starting role. They both have strengths and weaknesses … Reed [Wilson] was a heck of a quarterback last year, so they definitely have some shoes to fill but I think they are up for the task.”
One key impact player Pindell highlighted on defense is his senior captain and versatile front-seven anchor, Miles Heespelink.
“Defensively, Miles Heespelink has had a tremendous offseason and a great training camp,” said Pindell. “I think he can be a tremendous player for us defensively at linebacker and defensive end. He is an incredible athlete and a powerful kid and will definitely be creating some havoc on our defense.”
The Wolverines will open up their season at non-conference foe Pembroke on September 7.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.