The Wildcats had some success under coach Mike Self in his first year at the helm last season. This year, Haven looks to continue to build on that success and keep the program headed in the right direction.
Coach: Mike Self (2nd year head coach at Haven, 2-7 record)
2011 Recap: 2-7 Overall, 1-3 in the CKL South, 1-2 in District.
Haven picked up a win in Week 4 against Ellinwood, and then won again in the district after holding off a Nickerson comeback to beat the Panthers 21-20 in the first week of district play.
Returning Starters: Offensive 9, Defensive 8
Returning Lettermen: 18
2012 District: Garden Plain, Hutchinson Trinity, Kingman
The Wildcats have a bunch of players returning, with senior running back Trae Regier figuring to be a big force in the Haven offense. Last season, Regier led the team with 692 yards rushing with an average of 8 yards per carry. Regier was second on the team with 78 yards receiving, and scored 10 of Haven’s 21 total touchdowns. And Regier isn’t the only option out of the backfield for the Wildcats. Senior Zach Hendrixson and junior Austin Fritzemeier are both serious threats. Hendrixson was second on the team in rushing, pounding away as a fullback for 364 yards on a 3.9 yards per carry average. He scored three touchdowns and handled the place kicking as well. Fritzemeier saw limited carries as a running back last year, but was a major player in the passing game. With 79 yards receiving, Fritzemeier led the team, and scored 4 touchdowns. Between Regier, Hendrixson, and Fritzemeier, Haven is returning 114 of its 140 total points scored last season.
On top of being a threat to score on plays from scrimmage, Regier returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged over 20 yards per return in special teams.
In order for these three to have success in the second year of Self’s flexbone offense, there will have to be a strong offensive line to control the point of attack. Haven has a trio of seniors to anchor the line of scrimmage with Austin Eikleberry handling the snaps, Justin Weve beside Eikleberry at guard, and Taylor Carlson out wide at tackle. Isaac Ensz and Caleb Hopkins provide a couple of returning juniors on the line of scrimmage with Ensz at tackle and Hopkins at guard. Haven’s success will rely heavily on the ability of this experienced unit to allow its backs a chance to find open space.
Haven is losing a senior leader in quarterback Dylan Miller, but will have senior Eric Shive to take the reins at quarterback in 2012. In limited action last season, Shive completed 5 passes and threw for a touchdown without throwing a pick. Shive also has the ability to tote the ball effectively, gaining yards on the ground at 3.9 yards per carry last season. Shive will have a number of senior receivers to target. Jed Beachy, Dalton Arbuckle, Cody Crabtree, Tyler Skomal, and Noah Miller give Haven five seniors who can catch.
The CKL will feature a steady stream of power running teams, and Haven wants to be able to stuff the run with an aggressive style of defense. The Wildcats graduated last year’s leading tackler in linebacker T.J. Jacques, but have a host of players ready to step up.
Taking away the run will begin up front, and Haven has a couple of seniors in the middle in tackles Taylor Carlson and Cyrus Raigoza. Last season Raigoza was the team’s ninth leading tackler with 17. Junior Caleb Hopkins is a defensive tackle that can provide some size. Isaac Ensz is a junior defensive end who can make plays on the edge.
Once the defensive line can get a good push, it will be up to the linebackers to come in and make tackles. The Wildcats have a ton of experience at linebacker to get the job done with five seniors at the position. Trae Regier is an outside linebacker that was third on the team in tackles last season with 39.5. On the inside, Jed Beachy was right behind Regier with 36, and Zach Hendrixson is an inside linebacker who can make plays as well. Ryan Heim is another senior linebacker who can make a big difference in the Haven defense. Back on the outside, Noah Miller gives Haven a senior to play opposite Regier, and Austin Fritzemeier is a junior outside linebacker who can stop a ball carrier as well.
Haven is loaded with experience in the secondary as well, with three seniors. Cody Crabtree returns to the secondary after leading the team with 2 interceptions last season. Eric Shive picked up 9.5 tackles last season, including half a sack. And Dalton Arbuckle is another senior who figures to make plays for the Haven defense.
Odds and Ends:
Changing a culture of losing may be one of the most difficult tasks in sports. But Self has this team heading in the right direction. Last year, Haven won two games. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is the first time the Wildcats have had a season with more than one win since 2004. And two wins is the same amount Haven has won over a 59-game stretch starting with the final two games of 2004 to the first three games of 2011. Haven’s 21-20 win over Nickerson last season marks the first time the Wildcats have won a league game since an 8-2 win over Sterling in 2008, and the first time Haven has won a district game since a 20-0 win over Clearwater in 2004.
Two wins doesn’t seem like a lot, but for the Wildcats, they are giant steps toward changing minds, and attitudes in Haven. Self feels that this is an important year for Haven football, and there has been a transition from kids simply wanting success to kids taking it through putting in the effort. And he also believes that this large senior class has the mindset, and ability to provide an identity, not only for this year, but for the future of Haven football.