The Wildcats graduated a 1,500-yard rusher, an All-State lineman, and three other starting linemen from last year’s 10-2 team that lost to Owensboro Catholic in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Having to replace several linemen, coupled with the return of several skill people could mean the Wildcats taking to the air more in 2005.
I think we’ll throw the ball more this year,” said head coach Curtis Higgins, who enters his seventh season at the helm of the Wildcats with a record of 50-20. “We’ve been very dependent on Steven (Wadlington) the past two years, and we’ve controlled the ball and tried to keep the other team off the field.”
Higgins said that game plan caused the Wildcats to get conservative in their play calling and abandon the deep pass in favor of a strong ground game.
“We became conservative and rightfully so with a (career) 3,000-yard rusher and the experience we had on the line,” Higgins said. “Do I want to go back to the day when we threw for 4,000 yards and couldn’t run the ball? No. But I do see us throwing for 2,500 to 3,000 yards this year.”
The quarterback responsible for making many of those throws will be Tommy Woodall, who is still recovering from a broken wrist on his throwing hand suffered while making a tackle early in summer workouts.
Woodall threw for 1,373 yards and 15 touchdowns last year while completing 52-percent of his passes. The senior quarterback also rushed for 359 yards and ten touchdowns, giving Higgins a dual threat with his signal caller.
Woodall’s backup is senior Dylan Sonnek, who led the Wildcats to a pair of impressive showings at two 7-on-7 camps over the summer.
Trigg’s leading receiver last year, Jamaal Boyd, returns after becoming a reliable receiver who was able to make catches at key times for the Wildcats in 2004.
Boyd caught 26 passes for 623 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
If defenses try and focus on Boyd, the Wildcats will try and spring loose senior Greg Acree and senior Devin Tejada, who hauled in 17 passes for 326 yards last year.
In the backfield, the Wildcats will try and continue their streak of producing a fourth 1,000-yard rusher in the past five seasons.
Rick Woods, who had four carries last year, and 297-pound fullback Taylor McGee, who rushed for 431 yards and six touchdowns last year, are tabbed as the starters by Higgins.
Tejada and sophomore Scotty Mayes will also get the football in the backfield.
“I think we’re extremely strong at all of our skill positions. I feel good about our running backs and our receivers at this point,” Higgins said.
While the Wildcats are in good shape at the skill positions, Higgins must rework an offensive line that has been a strong point over the past couple of years.
Only Jeffrey Adams and Josh Strauch, a pair of part-time starters last year, return on the line as the Wildcat try and cultivate some new and smaller lineman than what they are accustomed to.
Adams, at 6-foot-8 and 320- pounds, makes a nice mountain to run behind. The senior has already been offered scholarships from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
“We want Jeff to get 100-percent of the offensive snaps. Jeff is 320 pounds, and that’s a lot to carry around every single play. He’s trying hard on every play and it’s hard to play that way on both sides of the football,” Higgins said.
Strauch saw his playing time steadily increase last year as his play on the line improved, despite being outsized in nearly every game.
Junior Devin Herndon has impressed the coaches during summer practice and may have earned a starting spot at center with his impressive play of late, while sophomore Ben Koenig may see time at guard.
Unlike past years where the line produced experienced players, this year the linemen have very little varsity time under their belt.
“Right now, the offensive line is our biggest weakness. We are shaky at some positions, and it showed during the Hoptown scrimmage,” Higgins said. “We have a lot of kids that haven’t played at all that are being counted on to contribute this year.”
The lack of depth and experience is another reason why Higgins expects the Wildcats to be more of a passing team in 2005.
“It’s easier for smaller linemen to pass block instead of run blocking,” he said. “We may have to simplify some things early until they get comfortable.”
As a result, Higgins said the Wildcats have stressed conditioning more this year than in the past.
“We’re trying to make the kids realize that some of them can’t come off the field because of our depth. We may have six or seven players go both ways.”
Senior Brent Wietting will handle the kicking duties after converting 13-of-14 chances on PATs last year.
Trigg’s speed at the skill positions will be enough to win games against the lower tier teams in the district, but their undersized line could pose a problem in the first three games of the season against 3A schools Madisonville, Bowling Green, and Hopkins Central.
“With our skill kids, I think we can put some points on the board. We just need our offensive line to mature quickly,” Higgins said.