Hillyer’s back; West Branch looks to improve

Sports

Brock Hillyer returns for his third-year as the Warriors' starting QB

West Branch Warriors High School Football

Credit: Sefa Kart/iStock/Getty Images Plus

BELOIT, Ohio (WKBN) – West Branch returns 16 letter winners (13 started) from last year’s team that lost four games decided by 10-points or less.

Coach Harris begins his second season at the helm, “I think there’s a level of familiarity now that was not there last year. We have a number of incoming sophomores from last year’s freshmen league championship team that we expect to push for playing time. We have a number of returners on both sides of the ball. As with many schools our size, most of our players are involved in multiple sports and were part of last season’s basketball and wrestling success so we hope to continue that with the upcoming football season.”

2019 Record: 2-8 (2-4), T-4th place in EBC
Head Coach: Kenneth Harris, 2nd season (2-8)

2019 Stats
Scoring Offense: 21.3 (36th in Area)
Scoring Defense: 27.6 (41st in Area)
Total Offense: 250.3
Rushing Offense: 115.9
Passing Offense: 134.4
Total Defense: 384.0

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 7

What you need to know about West Branch’s offense
-First-team All-EBC QB Brock Hillyer is back. Hillyer completed 61.1% of his 190 passes while throwing for 1325 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brock also led the team in rushing scores as well (11). Receivers David McKeivier (65 catches, 506 yards, 6 TDs), Josh Gregory (23.1 yards per catch), Andrew Coffee (9 catches for 103 yards), Nick Wilson (12 catches, 169 yards), Jed Smith and Jaxon Hendershot all return in 2020. Gregory set the school-record with his 88-yard touchdown reception against Marlington. Running back Alek Wilson looks improve upon his junior season numbers (237 rushing yards).

With the return of Greg Rockwell and Levi Rastetter up front will help but they’ll need to find other linemen to contribute and protect their ball carriers.

“We’re looking for some of the sophomores from last year’s EBC freshmen championship team to step up,” states Harris. “We need them to get some significant playing time. We’re going to have to take advantage of the depth at the skill positions.”

What you need to know about West Branch’s defense
-The strength may lie at the linebacker position and in the secondary for West Branch. Steve Marra (89 tackles) and Brock Smith (76 tackles) return to their inside linebacker spots while Josh Gregory (42 tackles) will be flanked to the outside. In the defensive backfield, the Warriors will have Nick Wilson (3 INTs) and David McKeivier at safeties and Jed Smith at one of the corner back slots.

“We’ll welcome back the top 5 tacklers from last season,” indicates coach Harris. “Some returners will be moved into new positions to get speed on the field. Just as on offense, the defensive line will need to develop fast. That’s where we’re the most inexperienced.” However, Kenny Marra (56 tackles, 3 QB sacks) is back in the fold for his junior season from his rush end position.

West Branch’s Key Player(s)
-Senior QB Brock Hillyer enters his third-year as the starter. He’ll be once again looked upon as the leader of the offense. Hillyer had a breakout season a year ago and with so many receivers returning – including his favorite target (David McKeivier) – one expects for many highlights to be in store for this fall. Hillyer has connected on 176 of 291 passes (60.4%) over the past two seasons.

2020 Schedule
Aug. 28 – Woodrige
Sept. 4 – Girard
Sept. 11 – at Struthers
Sept. 18 – at Marlington
Sept. 25 – Canton South
Oct. 2 – at Howland
Oct. 9 – at Carrollton
Oct. 16 – Alliance
Oct. 23 – at Minerva
Oct. 31 – Salem

The Big game on the schedule
October 31 – vs. Salem
…Always the big game is the rivalry match up with Salem. After last year’s loss (46-27), the Warriors will be looking to redeem themselves

Since 2015, Passing leaders
2019 – Brock Hillyer – 1325 yards, 12 TDs
2018 – Brock Hillyer – 870 yards, 8 TDs
2017 – TJ DeShields – 2294 yards, 17 TDs
2016 – TJ DeShields – 2063 yards, 17 TDs
2015 – TJ DeShields – 1157 yards, 7 TDs

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