SALEM — If West Limestone High continues its unprecedented run, it will do so with a new look.
The Wildcats, coming off consecutive playoff appearances for the first time and their first postseason win since 1988, are switching from a pro set I-back offense to the Wing-T in order to better suit personnel.
West Limestone scored more points (772) over the 2010 and 2011 seasons than any other two-year span in school history, according to sixth-year head coach David Arnsparger. But the Wildcats enter the 2012 campaign without their five leading rushers from last season and sport a young offensive front.
Still, the challenges aren’t dampening the spirits of West Limestone players.
“This year, we want to try to make it further in the playoffs ... and go to the third round,” sophomore guard Dakota Siniard said.
“We’re playing with a lot of younger guys; we’ve only got two seniors returning that have been starters for us,” said Arnsparger, whose roster features 36 players. “Things happen around here kind of in cycles. The last two years, we’ve had big numbers, big senior classes. We just don’t have a very big senior class right now. That doesn’t mean that our expectations aren’t still high. We’ve got a lot of 11th and 10th graders that are going to play, and a few ninth graders.”
Senior Caleb McConnell returns under center after throwing for 1,719 yards, 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions last season.
“He’s a good passer and a good athlete; we look for him to operate the offense and get the ball to our skill players,” Arnsparger said.
McConnell’s main target will likely be fellow senior Aaron McWilliams, who caught 39 passes for 584 yards and 10 scores last season.
Defensively, the Wildcats have undergone an overhaul. Four of the team’s five leading tacklers from last season were lost to graduation, including leader Nathan Burks (85 tackles).
“Defense is going to be kind of question mark for us because we had a lot guys graduate,” Arnsparger said. “And some of the guys that played defense last year who are returning are still unproven at this point.”
Arnsparger said the measuring stick for any Wildcat fotball team is the 1988 squad, which finished as the Class 3A state runner-up.
“In the last two years, we’ve got as close to the 1988 years as you can get, without getting tot he final game,” he said.
“We do have high expectations and that’s good. This football team and this community have created the high expectations that we have for ourselves.”
West Limestone returns to Class 4A, Region 8, where it was fourth last season. Two of the region’s top three teams —Brooks (8-3) and Central Florence (7-4) — are back, while 2011 region champion Deshler moved to Class 3A. Rogers joins the region after going 11-3 last season in Class 3A.
2011 results: 6-6 overall, 4-3 in Class 4A, Region 8. Lost in second round of the playoffs to eventual state runner-up Oneonta.
Season opener: Aug. 31 at Clements
Coach: David Arnsparger (26-27 in five seasons)
Returning starters: 11 on offense, 11 on defense
Big games: Sept. 7 vs. Brooks; Sept. 28 at Elkmont; Oct. 12 vs. Rogers
Aug. 31 at Clements
Sept. 7 vs. Brooks*
Sept. 14 at Central-Florence*
Sept. 21 vs. East Lawrence*
Sept. 28 at Elkmont
Oct. 5 at Wilson*
Oct. 12 vs. Rogers*
Oct. 19 vs. Priceville*
Oct. 26 at Haleyville*
Nov. 2 vs. Ardmore
*Class 4A, Region 8 contest
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