Thursday was a bit of a transition for Westlake’s football schedule.
Holding the ring ceremony for the 2021 team that won the Class 6A Division II state title with a 16-0 record while beating opponents 908-142, the Chaps honored the incredible fall that they had at Chaparral Stadium.
Former coach Todd Dodge and the seniors of that team were all in attendance for recognition of what could have been the best public school team in the country.
After the festivities, the current Chaps and new coach Tony Salazar held their spring game. Although Salazar had been at work for months, this was the first time he had guided Westlake through a formal process under the lights.
“It’s a relief that we all came out in one piece and did a great job,” said Salazar, Dodge’s defensive coordinator who became head coach in January after Dodge retired. “It’s time to take a deep breath and exhale as it was a bit stressful week to organize everything with the ring ceremony and to emphasize the need to go out healthy – which we did.”
The spring game was pretty much what you would expect from a team that returns a ton of starters and talent on the defensive side of the ball.
While not all of the returning starters played an overwhelming number of snaps, Westlake showed his defense will once again be strong and deep, with most of his backups likely to start at many other Central Texas Class 6A schools. .
“Our defense continued tonight the same things I’ve seen all spring,” Salazar said. “We were strong up front, and the strength of our defense starts with our defensive line. It comes back in our linebacker game with returning starter Byers Petty, and up-and-coming second student Elliot Schaper has been a really big surprise who is doing fantastic things on the field.
Four-star defensive end Colton Vasek didn’t play much, but when he did, he made his presence felt with tackles or consistent pressure on the quarterback. Vasek was joined by defensive end Brett Mays and linebacker Rhett Steppe to record sacks.
Defensive backs Ty Ingram-Eiser and Denim Collins had pass breakups in other notable plays for the Chaps defense, which as a unit will only make Westlake’s offense better against them every time. day.
“You can’t really put the quality of this defense into words,” said Brett Skinner, one of four players who received major shots at quarterback Thursday. “I think we have the best defense in the state. We have so many returning guys who are stallions – you really can’t name them all.
The Chaps offense will be different with quarterback Cade Klubnik – who watched the spring game from the sidelines – now at Clemson. But there is also a lot of talent on this side of the ball.
Four-star receiver Jaden Greathouse is the headliner, with running back Jack Kayser – who didn’t play Thursday with a knee injury – and receiver Keaton Kubecka also back after playing great roles last fall.
Skinner, Paxton Land, Nathan Acosta and Marson Monsivais all took snaps on Thursday, and Salazar liked what he saw in general from the attack.
“Our ability to block on the perimeter was impressive,” he said. “That’s one of our strengths, that’s our four wide receivers, and watching them play without the ball was awesome. Everyone sees the long range for a touchdown, but nobody sees the guys blocking on the perimeter. For us to succeed, we have to do it, and we did it well tonight.
Skinner had a 6-yard touchdown run and threw scoring passes for 28 yards to Greathouse and 29 to Kubecka. Acosta added a 1-yard TD dive as running back.
The competition to replace Klubnik could go all the way to summer training, and Salazar said he was comfortable with all of his options.
“Our quarterback room is a healthy room right now with four guys working hard to be the starter,” he said. “The thing with us – and I told them this – is that none of them are polished steel yet. They all need work, and we’ll continue to evaluate them through Week 1. We’ve played multiple quarterbacks over the past few years, and we’ve shown in 2019 – starting with three different quarterbacks in the first seven matches – that we can do that stuff.
For Land, just getting back on the pitch with his attacking teammates was a special experience.
“It’s always been my dream to play for Westlake, so it’s cool to come here and compete with my buddies at the highest level of high school football in Texas,” he said. “It’s a blessing to have a great offensive line and a receiving corps like us. It makes it easier for the quarterbacks because we just have to put the ball in the right place.
With just under 100 days left until Westlake is back on the court for the season opener against Missouri City Ridge Point, and there’s a lot of work to do until then, but Salazar hopes the experience from Thursday’s ringside ceremony will help motivate the Chaps for 2022.
“It’s a special day for these kids to see the fruits of all their hard work,” he said. “All the hard work that we have done and that we are selling to them, they see it here with this ceremony. From July to December, these guys work hard to be the best football team in Texas, so to get that Christmas present here and have all the seniors there to celebrate this team – what an awesome night.