After three weeks of intense practice and preparation, Coach Bob North and his Westfield Wolverines are ready to kick off the high school football season.
The Wolverines, will begin the 2012 season at home tonight against the same opponent they opened last season with - the Allegany-Limestone Gators.
"Last year was our first year jumping to Class C," North noted as players from Brocton joined the Wolverines. "We played (Allegany-Limestone) right off the bat and beat them by a point. They were a really good football team. They have a number of returning players so it will be a good test."
Westfield will be looking to replace a lot of production it lost to graduation last year.
Starting quarterback Trey North, fullback/defensive end Brent Morrison, receiver Austin Alonge, linebacker Anthony Leone and linemen Mason Samonia and Cody Merrill have all moved on after playing huge roles both on and off the field.
"I think we're working hard," North added of this year's squad. "It's a new group with new guys needing to take leadership roles. Some guys are stepping up and doing a nice job of that."
After watching his team practice, North has a pretty good idea of what it's going to take to earn a win against the Gators.
"Offensively the key will be mixing the run game with the pass game," he explained. "Last year we had some success throwing the ball, which opened up the run. We did that well and we'll have to do it again.
"Defensively it will be important for us to stop the run," North continued. "We're pretty good in pass coverage. It will come down to our defensive tackles."
The Wolverines, who finished 4-4 in 2011 before losing to Cleveland Hill in the playoffs, played a scrimmage against Pine Valley on Saturday to prep for real game action.
"We did a pretty good job flying to the football on defense," North said. "Cameron Wright and Dan Ferguson played linebacker and did a real nice job. Caleb Genther and Danny DeMarco also played well. I look for those four guys to lead us on defense."
Nearly every coach agrees that the first game of the season is the most important game on the schedule. A win can go a long way, not just in the standings, but for the psyche of a team.
"It was huge for us last year and might be even bigger for us this year," North agreed. "We were moving into a league we didn't know much about last year. If we had lost that game it could have been a long year, and I think the same goes this year. If we can get in the win column, that will be big for the guys we have this year."
Win or lose, North expects his players to come to practice on Monday level-headed and ready to prepare for next week's game against Southwestern.
"The kids have been working really hard the last couple weeks," he concluded. "They got excited for the scrimmage and they're even more excited about the game. These kids come to play every day and they want to get better."