A new artificial surface at James Sleighter Field has the potential to enhance the Whiteland Community High School football team’s rushing attack because of more consistent footing.
The Warriors have just the athletes capable of breaking it in.
Running backs Shaw Cloud and Brandon Patterson spearhead a ground game that last season averaged 310 yards a contest — five of those games played on grass — as the Warriors claimed a share of their fourth Mid-State Conference title in seven seasons.
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Overall, coach Darrin Fisher returns nine starters from an offense that scored 30 or more points on six occasions.
“For us, balance is one-third inside run, one-third perimeter run and one-third passing. When you spread the field horizontally you’re forcing the opponent to play assignment football,” Fisher said of Whiteland’s deception-based Fly Offense.
“We feel we’ve got the athletes who can win those one-on-one battles.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Cloud is a senior who a year ago rushed for 1,542 yards and 19 touchdowns. His per-carry norm of 9.5 yards practically moved the first-down chains on its own.
Patterson is a 5-10, 163-pound senior who ran for 701 yards and seven scores, while junior Anthony Schantz (588 yards, nine touchdowns) and senior Chris Richardson (263 yards) also are proven ball carriers.
The Warriors also benefit from junior quarterback Jace Carpenter (209 rushing yards) being a year older and wiser.
Last season, Whiteland threw the football a total of 55 times (slightly less than 10 percent of the offensive plays), in part due to Carpenter’s inexperience at the varsity level.
Fisher expects that number to rise.
“Jace has improved a ton. He’s a gym rat kind of guy who understands our offense backwards and forward, and for that I love him,” Fisher said. “He’s put on about 15 pounds in the weight room, but experience is the multiplier playing those 12 games last season.”
The offensive line returns three starters, the undisputed anchor being tackle Tyler Johnson, a 6-5, 301-pound senior.
Also returning to the trenches are senior Jake Sayer and Austin Bates. Other linemen expected to contribute are Parker Blythe, Austin Hamilton, Garrett Crowthers and Taranjeet Singh.
Whiteland must replace seven starters on defense, though the secondary could prove solid as senior Chase Jones (77 tackles) and junior Djimmon Ogega (19 tackles) return.
Defensive tackle Ryder Emberton (41 tackles, six sacks) and senior end Braxton Short (21 tackles, four sacks) also gained experience as starters in 2014.
Fisher said there are a number of seniors who could become defensive starters, including tackles Brandon Perry and Austin West, and ends Joe Corbin, Per’Rion White, David Hammond, Noah Richards and Aaron Spangler.
Others to watch from a senior class 36 strong are linebackers Quentin Truex, Jacob Walters, and Dakota Purdue and defensive backs Tom Copeland, Michael Rouse and Matthias Ebeyer.
Jacob Ballain gives Whiteland a strong kicking leg. The junior last season deposited 22 of 58 kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks, drilled 36 conversion kicks and all three field-goal attempts.
Whiteland has gone 23-11 the past three seasons, and the potential for a fourth consecutive winning season is most definitely there. But Fisher takes nothing for granted.
“The danger of an experienced team is they sometimes look ahead,” he said. “But if you don’t get better every day, we’re not going to be the team we want to be.
“We have to get better at guys maximizing their role and playing for each other.”
Friday;South Dearborn;7 p.m.
Aug. 28;at Center Grove;7 p.m.
Sept. 4;Decatur Central;7 p.m.
Sept. 11;at Franklin;7 p.m.
Sept. 18;at Avon;7 p.m.
Sept. 25;Martinsville;7 p.m.
Oct. 2;at Mooresville;7 p.m.
Oct. 9;Plainfield;7 p.m.
Oct. 16;at Greenwood;7 p.m.