High School Football

It ended in defeat, but coach says Wesclin’s season is one to build on

The disappointment of a playoff defeat still showed on the faces of his players, but Wesclin head football coach Ric Johns said 2017 may be a watershed season for the Warriors.

Wesclin finished the regular season undefeated for the first time in the program’s history, and earned the No. 1 seed in the class 3A playoffs.

It all came to a crashing end Saturday, when the Warriors absorbed a 51-20 defeat to No. 16 Pleasant Plains in the first round of the class 3A playoffs.

“It’s been a great season. These guys entered unchartered territory for Wesclin and they’ve shown the kids behind them what can be done,” Johns said. “On the other hand they’ve shown how far we need to go if we’re going to compete at the 3A level.”

The Warriors were winless in 2013, Johns’ first season as head coach. Two years later, they were in the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

Trademark to this year’s team was a deep running game led by 5-10, 195-pound running back Gavin Billbruck, who had 1,183 yards and 15 touchdowns. R.J. Kattenbracker (736 yards, 6 touchdowns), K.J. Corley (685 yards, 8 touchdowns) and quarterback Josh DeMage (591 yards, 12 touchdowns) added speed on the edges.

Only Billbruck returns next season, but so do four of five starting linemen.

“The offensive line is back next year and I’m excited for them. They should have a great year and be back in the playoffs in 3A,” said DeMage, after Saturday’s game. “They have to put in the work like the seniors did. We led by example.”

Johns thinks this season’s success is something the program can build on.

“When these seniors were freshmen, nobody was talking about this being a great class and when these juniors were freshmen nobody said ‘wait until this class gets here,’” Johns said. “Wesclin doesn’t have that next class coming. We’re always going to have be where the sum is going to have to be greater than its parts.

“That’s what we were this year and hopefully we can build on this and show that’s not an anomaly.”

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman