BELOIT, Ohio (WKBN) – With all the uncertainty that the Coronavirus pandemic has put in place for all of us, the West Branch football team has been working hard to improve themselves. Ken Harris is beginning his second season at the helm of the Warriors’ program. “We’re learning from last year and working on what needs improved. The biggest impact has probably been finding new ways to stay connected with the players. We have Google Meets with them and the coaches check in on them throughout the week. Nothing can replace the personal interaction of seeing them at school every day and in the classroom. Just staying connected in that way has been the biggest challenge.”
A year ago, West Branch finished with a record of 2-8. However, the Warriors were 0-4 in games decided by 10 points or less.
“We were making really good progress with our off-season strength program until the state wide shut down,” points out coach Harris. “We placed second at the Columbiana power meet in early-March. We had thirty participants there. Most of the players take a strength and conditioning class at school. So, they’re still following the lesson plan from their teacher as best they can.”
Sixteen letter winners are set to return this coming season. The team’s All-League quarterback Brock Hillyer (1325 passing yards, 12 TDs; 11 rushing TDs) will be welcomed back. The Warriors’ top pass catcher David McKievier (65 receptions for 506 yards) leads the group of receivers back into the fold (along with Andrew Coffee, Nick Wilson, Jed Smith, Jaxon Hendershot). Alec Wilson (237 rushing yards) returns at running back as he’ll have a pair of established linemen – Greg Rockwell and Levi Rastetter – back to block for the offense. On defense, many starters return which includes Kenny Marra (3 QB sacks) up front as well as Steve Marra (41 solo tackles), Brock Smith (41 solo tackles), David McKiever (41 solo tackles) and Nick Wilson (3 INTs) in the back seven.
The players have been pushing themselves over the course of the last month to get better says coach Harris. “They’re finding ways to stay active which requires some creativity. We had a player send me a picture of them cutting and chopping wood one day. That’s a great workout. Put the log splitter away and just use a good old fashioned wedge and a sledge. They’re also responsible for providing their own structure for the day. Gone are the school bells that let them know when to leave one class and go to the other, the entire structure of the school day has changed. They have to do that on their own now.”