Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Garrett Hartwig recognizes the circumstances that contributed to West High’s disappointing 4-7 finish last season.
Hartwig acknowledges a schedule that featured six games against opponents that reached the quarterfinals was among the toughest in the state.
The third-year head coach is aware injuries, inexperience and close calls all played a role in an 0-4 start that turned into a sub-.500 season.
Hartwig knows all of those things.
Still he has the same response when asked to explain what led to last year’s record.
“No excuses,” Hartwig said flatly. “It’s the way it is and we aren’t going to make excuses. At the end of the day that’s what our record was and we take responsibility for that.”
Hartwig and the Trojans aren’t interested in reminiscing about what went awry last season following a 7-5 mark and a quarterfinal berth in 2014.
What the Trojans are interested in is making sure this season follows a different script.
“There are definitely guys that are hungry for success especially after last year when we didn’t finish how we wanted to,” West High senior Oliver Martin said. “Guys are bringing the intensity every day trying to get better and trying to be leaders on the team.”
An 0-4 start and three losses to state semifinalists led to the first sub-.500 season at West High since 2010 last fall.
This year the Trojans believe they possess everything necessary for a complete turnaround.
“We are big and we are fast and we have everything we need,” West High senior linebacker Max Brown said. “We have all the puzzle pieces we just need to put it together.”
A big reason for optimism is the West High offense.
The Trojans return four starters on the offensive line and the most productive receiving duo in the state in seniors Oliver Martin (6-1, 190) and Devontae Lane (6-1, 205).
Martin emerged as a major college prospect this summer after catching 73 passes for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.
“I think our skill players will be good this year and then on top of that we have a great line, a big line,” Martin said. “That will be good, that’s a big key for us.”
West High must replace departed senior quarter Alex Henderson who passed for 2,510 yards and 22 touchdowns in his only season as the starter.
Juniors Evan Flitz (5-11, 170) and Ethan Postler (6-2, 185) emerged as the top candidates to replace Henderson under center.
“Our quarterbacks are getting better,” Hartwig said. “It’s an unknown I’ll be honest but we are excited for the guys competing right now.”
Whoever takes the snaps at West High will have the luxury of throwing to a strong group of receivers and working behind a veteran offensive line.
Senior Iowa State commit Alex Kleinow (6-6, 285) headlines a list of four returning starters on the offensive line.
Seniors Coy Blair (5-11, 210) and Josh Van Roekel (6-4, 245) and junior Jonathon Gannon (6-3, 235) all return with starting experience along the offensive line.
Senior Matthew Huff is expected to take over the running back duties after ranking third on the team with 54.5 tackles last season as a defensive back.
“I think our running back position is going to be one of our surprises,” Hartwig said. “I feel really good about our running back position and when you put it with our offensive line coming back we should be able to run the ball but should and doing it are two different things.”
Offensive standouts like Martin and Kleinow get the attention but in order for West High to make a deep playoff run the Trojans will need to improve on defense.
Last year West High surrendered an average of 29 points and better than 380 yards per game.
West High returns plenty of experience on defense led by Brown (5-9, 175) who racked up a team-high 68 tackles a year ago.
“We have a lot of returning defensive starters,” Brown said. “We are working hard and I think our defense is going to be one of our strong points this year.”
Senior Blake Ealy (6-1, 225) is back on the defensive line along with Tyler Yoerger (5-11, 195) and Dillon Shephard (6-1, 195).
Will Peterson returns at linebacker while Nick Kean and Evan Hermiston both saw time at defensive back a year ago.
“We have the skill and we have the players everywhere,” Kleinow said. “Our goals are pretty straight forward.”