The success of the Willow Springs football team in 2018 will hinge on a strong group of juniors.
“I have a big group of juniors that are stepping up and working hard. There is a real, big core group of kids that have been working hard all summer long. We are pretty encouraged by it,” second-year Willow Springs head coach Logan Schwalm said.
Willow Springs finished 1-9 last year in Schwalm’s first season, but several key pieces return this year in hopes of improving that record.
The junior class is led by junior quarterback and linebacker Tryton Henley. Henley threw for 722 yards and six touchdowns to go with 733 yards and six touchdowns on the ground as a sophomore. He added in 55 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
“He (Henley) is a great kid and a hard worker. I think he has just grown in that aspect. He is becoming more vocal and physically matured a lot more,” Schawlm said. “He is only getting better. I thought he did a great job last year as a sophomore and he will only continue to get better.”
Junior James Collins returns on the offensive line at center along with senior Bryce Banta. The other three starting offensive linemen will be new this season.
Two new faces will handle the rushing load out of the backfield in senior Chase Garrison and junior Bailey Iott. The two combined for 13 carries for 66 yards last season. Garrison will also lead the defense at linebacker after being selected to the all-conference honorable mention team last year. He was third on the team with 65 tackles as a junior.
Juniors Wyatt Crudgington (wide receiver), Jon Baker (wide receiver) and Chayse Jones (tight end) along with Micah Duffield (tight end) and Zach White (wide receiver) will be players to watch in the passing game. Crudgington, Baker and White will join Brady Walton in a brand new secondary for the Bears.
Jaron Story will anchor the defensive line after being named to the all-conference honorable mention team as a sophomore. He led the team in tackles with 74 tackles and four sacks.
“He is a big, strong kid. He was huge for a sophomore. He has good feet under him and can be very physical all the time. He has a lot of potential. We just hope he reaches that potential, and if he does he will be a great player for the next two years,” Schwalm said.
Dclan Kargel will join Story on the defensive line. Cole Henley will drop back from the defensive line to linebacker as a senior. Duffield will round out the linebacking corps with Tryton Henley.
Improvement will be a big goal for the Bears in Schwalm’s second season as head coach.
“We just want to try to improve. I think this group we have is hungry for it. We just have to get better at executing,” Schawlm said. “We do have to learn to win. We didn’t have a lot of success last year, but there were bright spots with some young guys. I think at this point so far we are head and shoulders better than we were last year.”
Willow Springs will travel to Houston for a jamboree on Aug. 17 with the host Tigers, Cabool and Cuba.