WESTBROOK SENIORS. Pictured, kneeling, from left: High Windle, Mason Coley, Landon Armstrong, Jesi Andres, Caleb McCarty, Layten Crawford, KarMichael Cattling. Standing, from left: Steven Barnes, Aidan Hull, Jackson Bryant, Gray Skelton, C.J. Toensel, Dillon Machen. (Courtesy of Patrick Wright)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Westbrook Christian head football coach Drew Noles acknowledged that the Warriors have their work cut out for them in what is arguably the toughest Class 3A region in the state.
Class 3A, Region 6 includes defending state champion Piedmont, Hokes Bluff, Glencoe, Geraldine, Plainview, Ohatchee and Sylvania.
“For a school the size of ours, our region is as tough a one as there is,” said Noles. “Competitively top to bottom, our schedule is absolutely brutal. We have tremendous respect for the teams in our region and we embrace that challenge, but our focus continues to be on us. We’ve got to get better, and we’ve got a long way to go to get to where we need to be.”
Beset by injuries and inexperience, the 2021 Warriors went 4-6 and missed the state playoffs for the first time in four years.
“We’re not very pleased about what happened last year; it left a little sour taste in our mouths,” said Noles, who is entering his fourth season at Westbrook. “But we recommitted ourselves in the weight room in the offseason, which was great to see.”
The program’s numbers have risen dramatically from last season, as 64 players from grades 9 through 12 are on the varsity roster. Sixteen starters return, with 10 on offense and six on defense.
“That’s a good number for a school of our size,” said Noles. “We’re excited about the 14 seniors that we have. Most of them are multi-sport athletes, which is good because they’re competing year-round. We’ve got a good group of guys coming back.”
Noles would like to limit two-way players as much as possible.
“It’s a puzzle piece right now to find out where everybody will go,” said Noles. “Everyone’s played on both sides of the ball during the summer, and hopefully, if we’ve taught them enough, they’ll retain some of what we’ve worked on if they are able to go one way.”
A pair of veterans return to the offensive backfield in senior quarterback Mason Coley and All-Region senior halfback Karmichael Cattling. Coley last season threw for 1,153 yards and seven touchdowns, while Cattling rushed for 871 yards and 10 scores.
Coley’s favorite 2021 target, senior Hugh Windle, returns at receiver. Windle had 13 receptions last season.
The line looks to be in fine shape with seniors C.J. Townsel, Jesi Andres, Gray Skelton and Aiden Hull returning.
“It’s fun when you coach kids that are fun to coach,” said Noles, who is entering his fourth season at the school’s Rainbow City campus. “They don’t always do things right as far as when they’re on the field but it’s not because they’re not trying.
“We don’t have any uncoachable kids, and that’s a blessing. You can work with a kid who is doing something wrong but he’s still giving an effort.”
Noles pointed to the complete overhaul of the school’s athletic facilities as a source of pride and excitement for the players.
Among several other projects, the football field turf was replaced, the concession stands and restrooms were expanded and the press boxes on both the home and visitors’ side were renovated.
“It’s really unbelievable to see the speed in which that has happened,” said Noles. “There’s excitement in the program, and a lot of good things are happening around campus and in the community.”