Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – For a perennially powerful program like West High a two-win season in 2021 came as a shock.
The 2-7 mark from a year ago also provided a potent reminder for the returning Trojans that success isn’t guaranteed anywhere.
“We definitely learned that not everything is granted,” West High senior Seth Overton said. “Coming from West High we are usually a powerhouse and having a winning season so last season definitely opened our eyes to show us that nothing can be taken for granted and we have to work for what we want.”
Following an uncharacteristic season last year West High is prepared to provide a reminder to opponents with a bounce back season in 2022.
The reminder? West High is still a force to be reckoned with in Class 5A.
“We just really want to remind everyone that our program is elite and we need to keep that standard going,” West High senior Mitch Frey said. “We can’t tolerate seasons like last season. We have to get right back on track and go to where we need to be.”
West High dealt with injuries to key players and youth last fall, starter four underclassmen including a freshman quarterback.
Combine a young team and a few injuries with a schedule that featured five teams that reached the 5A playoffs including four that reached the quarterfinals and you have the recipe for the fewest wins in eight seasons under head coach Garrett Hartwig.
“You go two directions in life you go forward or you go backwards,” Hartwig said of responding to last season. “I look back at last year and there were quite a few things that just didn’t go our way. You can call them excuses or you can call them reasons, we will never makes excuses in this program but we were a young team playing a tough schedule and it just didn’t go our way last year and that fueled us this offseason.”
The inexperience West High dealt with last season should turn into a strength this fall.
West High returns 13 players that started a game last season.
The list of returning starters includes a starting quarterback in Wallace, the second leading receiver and rusher from last season and the Trojans’ top tackler from a year ago.
“It was obviously not the season we were expecting at all and this year it’s just about getting back on track and how do we bounce back from a season like that,” Frey said. “We are getting prepared to have a season that we can tolerate around here.”
Wallace (6-3, 210) returns to lead the West High offense after throwing for 829 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for another score last season as a freshman.
In his second season as a starter Wallace gets his top weapon back as senior Christian Janis (6-4, 180) returns after being limited by injury to one game last season.
Add in Bryan Torres (6-2, 205) who was second on the team with 10 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown last season and impressive sophomore Mason Woods (6-1, 185) and the Trojans have a strong receiving corps returning.
Senior running back Davontae Morris (6-0, 215) also returns after ranking second on the team with 209 rushing yards and two touchdowns last season.
Up front seniors Frey (6-2, 210) and Ryan Goodman (5-11, 230) are back to bolster the offensive line.
“I think we have all the pieces we need to really do some great things this year,” Frey said. “We have a quarterback with a little bit more experience under his belt and that’s going to be huge for us, we have a lot of guys on offense coming back so we are going to be a little more experienced and a little more ready to go week one.”
Defensively is where West High expects to make the biggest jump after allowing 33 points per game a year ago.
Senior Ryne Vander Leest (5-10, 195) and junior Ashton Honore (6-0, 210) are back to lead a deep and talented group of linebackers.
Vander Leest made a team-high 67 tackles while Honore was third on the team with 35.5 a year ago.
Braden Gladwin (5-10, 180) and Zach Logsdon (5-9, 190) also return at linebacker after combining for 39 tackles a year ago.
“Our linebacker group is deep and talented,” Hartwig said. “At the high school level you want to get your 11 best players on the field and six of those guys might be linebackers and I credit our defensive staff, coach Tyler Meade, for doing a great job of getting the best players on the field to the right job. We are going to look a little bit different than probably a traditional Iowa High school defense but I am excited to see what we can do.”
Winner Ndijbu (6-4, 280) and Dayne Van Dyke (6-0, 195) return on the defensive line while Overton (6-2, 175) is back to bolster the secondary.
“We’ve have worked our guys really hard, we have really worked our defensive backs into shape. We know all of our jobs, we know exactly where to go and when to do it and that’s what we need to do to be successful.”