High school football: Westlake Thunder 2012 preview

Published: Saturday, Aug. 4 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

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Note: Westlake finished with a 4-7 overall record and a 3-2 record in Region 7 in 2011. It lost to Timpview, 24-17, in the 4A quarterfinals.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Westlake players remember it all too well. Having tied up the game late against perennial 4A powerhouse Timpview in the state quarterfinals, they allowed T-Bird receiver Austin Fullmer to get behind their defense for the winning touchdown reception with just seconds remaining.

It was a brutal end to a season that featured tons of improvement and lots of promise.

The Thunder began 2011 with a thud — losing its first five games — including a 40-9 thrashing at the hands of Timpview. From that point, though, it was able to rally, advance to the state quarterfinals and come within seconds of beating that same Timpview team.

Considering how they ended 2011, there’s a lot to be excited for in 2012.

“That Timpview game was tough, but it gave us a lot of confidence, I think,” said coach Gary Clark. “I think we proved last year that we can play with the best, and we’ll try to prove the same thing this year and try to improve on what we did last year.”

Clark enters his first year as Westlake’s head coach having served last year as an assistant. In his inaugural year Clark hopes to continue with the strides the team made last season — and add to them.

It won’t be easy, however, as Westlake will field a relatively young and inexperienced team.

“We’re young again this year,” said Clark. “It’s sort of like how we were last year, but I’m confident that we can do some of the same things we did a year ago and even improve on that. We can’t get off to the slow start we did a year ago and we have to finish better. Sure, we came close to beating Timpview, but now we need to make sure that we’re no longer that one play away.

"The next step is now to make that play and get that one more game.”

In order to get that one more game Westlake will rely on a stingy defense that looks strong at key positions.

“We have a lot of good players returning at linebacker, which is where we’re probably the strongest,” said Clark. “We lost some size up front, but I think our linebackers will be very strong for us.”

The linebacking corps will be led by senior middle linebacker Caden Daley, who is excited about the coming year and is willing to take on the leadership mantel.

“Our defense is going to be our strong point — especially the front seven,” said Daley. “I’m definitely excited for this year and I think I’m going to have my best season yet and I think this team will have its best year yet.”

On offense the team will rely on some young up-and-comers, including quarterback Gavin Williams.

“Gavin is a young guy, but he’s maturing quickly,” said Clark. “We hope that he’ll be at the point to step right in when the season starts because we feel he has a lot of potential.”

For Clark the simple goal is to get better and hopefully have enough to try to take the state championship.

“It’s all about work and I’ve been happy with how our players have been working,” said Clark. ‘I like the attitude and I like the leadership our seniors have shown, so I think we have the potential to improve and to be a very good football team.”

Westlake Thunder at a glance