Statistics aren’t used to determine the success and improvement of Whiteland football player Garrett Curtis.
Playing perhaps his sport’s most underappreciated position, the 5-foot-11, 255-pound senior center is the furthest thing from being the Warriors’ center of attention.
Nonetheless, the second-year starter is the key that ignites Whiteland’s deception-based fly offense, which plans to showcase players such as seniors Ryan Hammond (840 yards rushing last season), Preston Phillips (436) and Evan Hillman (238).
All three will get their touches — but not as many as Curtis.
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“I like being the first player to touch the football. It starts with me. It starts up front,” said Curtis, who prior to his junior year had always been a guard or tackle along the offensive line.
“Being a center, you’re the leader of the line. Almost all of the calls will come from me on how we’re going to block the next play.”
Whiteland averaged 314 rushing yards and 28.1 points per outing last season. Curtis and Greg Jones, a 5-9, 230-pound senior are the only returning starters on the line, and they’ll be joined up front by three newcomers.
Senior Cameron Johnson is one of the candidates; others are juniors Avi Eblen, Hunter Metheny, Brett Kinslow and Matthew Devers.
Playing center requires Curtis to carefully study game film in order to critique his blocking angles, hand placement on a defender and whether or not he timed the snap to the Warriors’ quarterback correctly.
His work ethic, whether on the field or during preseason workouts, positively influences the younger players in the Whiteland football program.
“The first thing Garrett does is set a tremendous standard of how you’re supposed to practice and how you’re supposed to prepare,” said coach Darrin Fisher, who in a dozen seasons with the Warriors has guided the program to five Mid-State Conference titles.
“Garrett does things the right way and is a great teammate.”
Whiteland’s 2017 football schedule (all games start at 7 p.m.):
Aug. 18;New Palestine
Aug. 25;at Center Grove
Sept. 1;Decatur Central
Sept. 8;at Franklin
Sept. 15;at Avon
Sept. 29;at Mooresville
Oct. 13;at Greenwood
1. Traditional rivalries aside, who are you most looking forward to playing and why?
In all honesty, I’m looking forward to the New Palestine game because I’ve learned in the past that it’s best to take it one game at a time.
2. If football didn’t exist, how would you keep yourself busy in the fall?
I have no clue. I used to play basketball, so I would probably be preparing for that. And I’m in show choir, so I would be seeing my choir director a lot more than I already do.
3. If you could trade bodies with one of your teammates, who would it be and why?
Isaac Ebeyer. He can move around and do flips and all that stuff. That would be awesome to be able to do, but being a bigger guy (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) that’s hard to do.
4. Name something fans will see from this team that they’re not expecting.
They’ll see more of a brotherhood and more of a family. We went to the DePauw football camp earlier this summer and (former Whiteland player Aaron Harris) came in to tell us how important that is. Having that brotherhood helps a lot. I know there’s always someone there who has my back.
Coach: Darrin Fisher (13th year)
Last year: 6-5, lost to Columbus East 56-31 in Class 5A sectional final
Projected starters: Ryan Hammond, senior RB; Joe Leistner, senior WR; Preston Phillips, senior WR; Evan Hillman, senior WR; Greg Jones, senior OL; Garrett Curtis, senior C; Cam Lilly senior DT; Alex Reed, junior DT; Logan Kidwell, junior DE; Cameron Ciampa, senior LB; Austin Cook, senior LB; Tanner Milam, senior DB
New kids on the block: Kevin Stucker, senior QB; Iyan Pelfree, junior QB; Jake Perry, junior RB; Lance Parson, senior RB; Gavin Lutz, sophomore RB; Matt Luechtefeld, senior WR; Deven Williams, sophomore WR; Hunter Smith, senior TE; Landen Lowry, junior TE; Joe Hernandez, junior TE; Cameron Johnson, senior OL; Avi Eblen, junior OL; Hunter Metheny, junior OL; Brett Kinslow, junior OL; Matthew Devers, junior OL; Addison Watson, senior DE; Will Shipe, senior DE; Matthew Havens, junior DE; Elvis Garza, senior DT; Marcus Havens, sophomore DT; Matthew Bolton, senior LB; J.J. Kiboi, senior LB; Jacob Schultz, sophomore LB; Sam Walls, senior LB; Brett Benson, senior LB; Brandon Prine, senior LB; Nick Carrizales, senior DB; Isaac Ebeyer, senior DB; Andres Trevino, senior DB; Jaylen Dunlap, sophomore DB; Jacob Brown, sophomore DB
Outlook: The program knows success and how to maintain it, having won five Mid-State Conference championships in the last nine seasons. Hammond is a proven force as a ball carrier and blocker, yet the Warriors must break in a new starting quarterback and replace three starters on the offensive line. Fisher likes his depth at running back and counts the defensive front as another strength, but knows the program is relatively inexperienced when it comes to the offensive line, defensive secondary and special teams. These areas of concern must be developed if Whiteland is going to record a sixth consecutive winning season.
Fisher says: “Our No. 1 focus is having a great practice every day. This group has been fun to be around and fun to coach. They work hard and have fun doing it. What we’re working on is, how does your daily behavior affect everyone else’s experience playing the game of football? It’s about precision, about passion and about relentlessness. Those are the traits we’re trying to get from everyone in our program.”
Each of Johnson County’s football teams will play a scrimmage on Friday, a week before the official season opener. A look at who plays where:
Center Grove vs. Arsenal Tech;6 p.m.
Franklin vs. Roncalli;7 p.m.
Greenwood vs. Columbus North;7 p.m.
Whiteland vs. Terre Haute North;7 p.m.
Indian Creek at Greensburg;7 p.m.
Edinburgh at Covenant Christian;7 p.m.