Westbrook Christian’s last three visits to the state high school football playoffs have resulted in first-round losses. New coach Drew Noles and his players are counting on numbers to help them take the next step in 2019.

The Warriors have 54 players on their squad, including 18 seniors and 32 upperclassmen from last year’s 7-4 team that finished third in Class 2A, Region 6. Noles said that will enable them to two-platoon, which he called “a big deal” in 2A.

“We’ve been hitting the halls and have a lot of kids out,” Noles, who took the Westbrook job this year after six seasons at Etowah and 13 at Boaz, where his teams posted a combined 132-82 record, said.

An early-season slump — three losses in four games — kept the Warriors from a favorable seeding in the playoffs, and they fell 35-21 to Collinsville in their opener.

“It was a little letdown to get beat in the first round of the playoffs,” senior defensive back John Reese Bellew said. “Hopefully we can step up and go further this time.”

 

Fill in the Blank

Even with the veteran squad, Westbrook will have to replace some key players. Jackson Cox, Hunter Grimes, Jackson Luttrell, John Ross Morgan and P.J. Wells “did a lot of things for them,” Noles said.

“But we have some capable people,” he said. “I like the attitude and the work ethic of this team.

Noles said the offensive line and secondary will be the Warriors’ strengths, adding, “Those are two groups of very good football players.”

The receiving corps also is deep.

“We don’t have the speed of some teams I’ve had, but we have great depth and a lot of people who can catch the ball and make plays,” Noles said.

Westbrook’s basic offense will be the I with multiple looks. “We’ll look a lot like what they looked like last year, although the terminology and some of the schemes will be different,” Noles said.

The basic defensive scheme will be a 3-4, again with the likelihood of multiple looks depending on what game opponents present.

 

Key Players

Junior Will Noles — the coach’s son — figures to start at quarterback. “Nobody knows the offense better than him,” his father said.

However, freshman Cade Phillips “has tremendous athletic ability,” and Drew Noles said he hopes his son can serve as a mentor. "Our offense looks simple, but there’s some complexity to it,” the elder Noles said.

The rushing attack will be “by committee,” Noles said, with nobody “getting 25 carries a game.” Top candidates include Caiden Wyatt, Karmichael Cattling, Asher Keck and Jai’Shawn Cattling; Bellew and senior transfer Joe Tucker also could get carries.

Tucker, Brandon Foster and Ryan Scott anchor the receiving corps, John Harvey the offensive line.

Bellew and Tucker lead the secondary, whose strength, according to Nole,s “will allow us to keep more people up to stop the run, try some man-to-man and different coverages.”

Bellew looks forward to meeting high expectations.

“We have great experience and can really be good in the secondary,” he said.

Longtime Alexandria head coach Frank Tucker is Westbrook’s new offensive coordinator.

“It’s huge to be able to get someone of his caliber,” Noles said. “We go way back. We coached against each other and had some great games. He’s a great character.”

 

Keys to Making the Playoffs

“Ohatchee is everyone’s favorite and Ranburne has a good bunch coming back,” Noles said. “Cleveland (No. 4 in the region last year) and West End will be better.

The Indians and Bulldogs were first and second, respectively, in Region 6 last year.

“These are all teams I’ve never coached against, so they’re new to me, but football is football,” he said. “We just need to take care of the ball, play strong defense and play well in the kicking game.”

The goal is to peak at the end of the season — at playoff time. “We want to go out every week and win that game and play our best ball,” Harvey said. “Hopefully we’ll learn and get better as a team as the season progresses.”

“We’ll be very vanilla early in the year, then as the schedule builds up each week we’ll add more. If you peak in Week One, there’s no place to go but down,” Noles said.