Pats look to put tough year behind them

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson said the Patriots will have a faster defensive line this year, which includes senior Ross Tempel (78). 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY - On very seldom occasion has Heritage Hills football produced a losing record, but 2020 was one of those rare years after graduating a large senior class that went to state the year before.

The Patriots went 4-6 last season, their first losing record since 2013, and just their sixth losing season in program history. Nevertheless, it's a new year, and 10th-year coach Todd Wilkerson is excited about what the fresh start brings.

"Last year was just a difficult year and we're ready to get the taste out of our mouth and move onto 2021," Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson likes the way the preseason has come along. The Pats will once again emphasize the run game, and will have a few options out in the backfield, which includes junior twins Skyler and Shane Staples. He was happy they got the experience they had, and the team is looking to them to be a big part of what they do this year.

Heritage Hills will also turn to multiple fullbacks this season.

"(Junior) Brayden Foertsch had an awesome offseason in terms of his strength and speed improvement," he said. "So, I think Brayden Foertsch will start at fullback - he was kind of off the radar last year. And then (fellow junior) Brenden Chew and (senior) Evan Bowling will be in the rotation as well. So, having three fullbacks is a good deal for us because that's a big position for us and we can kind of rotate those guys through there."

The Pats scrimmaged Jasper on Aug. 13, and Wilkerson liked the way his defense looked against the Wildcats. He thought they flew to the ball and didn't give up big plays. Wilkerson thinks Heritage Hills has a faster defensive line than it had last year, as Bowling and fellow senior Ross Tempel will be part of the front.

He also likes what he sees out of his linebacking core that includes Skyler, senior Ben Mangum, Foertsch and sophomore Braydon Durham. The Pats will include Shane and Chew at safeties, and Wilkerson touted Chew for being talkative. He told The Herald that, despite being a junior, Chew's almost acting like he's a senior.

Taking over from the graduated Jacob Schmidt at quarterback will be junior Camden Schipp. Senior Luke Rickelman was a candidate for the position last year before becoming an All-Pocket Athletic Conference running back. However, Rickelman dealt with an injury at the end of last season, and the Pats will only start Rickelman at cornerback - for now.

Rickelman is looked to get rotated in the backfield and is always in the mix at quarterback, which also includes sophomore Preston Coop. Schipp may be untested, but that's who the Pats are going with, with Wilkerson citing his play at the junior varsity level.

"He throws the ball pretty accurately," Wilkerson said. "We want him to just manage the game, get the ball to our running backs, make the decisions he's supposed to make. When we have opportunities to hit wide-open receivers, we want him to them. But so far, he's done the job in practice, and we'll just have to see how he can handle it...in the actual game on Friday nights."

Heritage Hills is set to play Friday night at Mt. Vernon, a foe within the team's PAC Large School Division. Wilkerson made it known the Pats have aspirations to compete to win their division and also to compete to win their second sectional in three years.

"I think we rarely go into a season and don't have those goals," he said. "I don't know if we ever go into a season and don't have those goals."




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