Rutledge proud of WHS football program’s progress after 4-6 finish

Jacob Meseke | @jacob_meseke

After a season ending 52-6 loss against Centralia, Charger football finished the season with a record of 4-6. 

“A losing season is not something we are happy with, but I am proud of the accomplishments and the direction the program is headed in. We won more games this season than the last three seasons combined and won the first playoff game in 37 years, so those are definite positives,” said head football coach Jess Rutledge. 

“Now, we need to build upon that and take the next step which is to have a winning season and continue playoff success.”

The Chargers will be losing five seniors and will be returning 22 players, 8 starters on offense and 7 starters on defense.

Rutledge looks forward to having next year’s freshman class. 

“Next year’s Freshmen should be a good group. I did not get to see them play as much as I would have liked this past season, but I know there are some talented young guys in that group,” said Rutledge.

Cade Oliver will return to start at Quarterback after an outstanding junior season. Oliver threw for a school record 2083 yards and 17 touchdowns on a 62% completion percentage. Oliver also had 4 rushing touchdowns. Oliver led 1A in passing yards and was the first-team quarterback for easternsportskansas.com. Rutledge expects more accolades as other organizations complete awards lists.

“Cade had an outstanding season and set multiple school records. He truly took his game to the next level and established himself as a leader on this team. I was very pleased with his game play and the way in which he became more vocal in getting the team going. There is always room to grow and improve, which is the next step for him to become an elite player. I think he has the potential to be that guy,” said Rutledge.

Aiden Boeckman will return to start at running back. Boeckman led the team in rushing yards with 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Chargers will lose running back Derek Wallin who ran for 5 touchdowns. 

The Chargers will lose wide receivers Tyler Lohmeyer and Dawson Schultz who both made easternsportskansas.com’s first team. Lohmeyer set a school record with 795 receiving yards, which was second in 1A, and 8 touchdowns. Schultz had 701 receiving yards, third in 1A, and 8 touchdowns as well. Returning wide receivers are Brayden Meseke and Eli Oliver. Those two combined for 34 receptions, 481 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. 

The entire starting offensive line will return. The O-line was a young group made up of two freshman, two sophomore, and a junior. 

Maverick Havenstein will be returning to start on the defensive line. Havenstein was named to the easternsportskansas.com’s second team and was third on the team in tackles with 72. The D-line will lose Derek Wallin who had 6 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. 

Tate Deever and Zach Frank will both return at linebacker. Deever led the team in tackles with 75 and Zach Frank tied for the lead in interceptions with two. The linebackers will lose Jace Reves who was second in tackles on the team with 74. 

The secondary will return Brayden Meseke and Eli Oliver who both had two interceptions on the season. 

Coach Rutledge always talks about changing a culture, and the players think they turned a corner this season.

“The culture didn’t change until this year. We just didn’t accept losing this year,” senior Adam Miller said.

In a season of uncertainty, COVID-19 impacted the team very little compared to other schools. 

“COVID-19 did not have a huge impact on our season, other than when we had to have 7 guys in quarantine. This caused them to miss a district game and their first day back for the competition was the day of our next district game. It was not ideal, but everyone had to deal with these types of issues this year,” Rutledge said.

The Chargers look to build on what they did well for next season. 

“I am looking forward to seeing how we build upon what we did well as a team in 2020. Last season’s successes won’t matter unless we fix our mistakes and keep taking steps forward as a program. I believe next season can be a good one, but we have got to get to work now in order for that to happen,” Rutledge said.

Having goals is important to having success.

“The biggest goal for us next season is to build off of this year. Beating Mission Valley, a winning record, hosting a playoff game, and advancing further into the playoffs will be our main goals,” Rutledge said.

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