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Football Whiteland: Season preview – Daily Journal

As registration numbers continue to rise at Whiteland, you would think there would be less of a need to use the same players on both sides of football.

Warriors coach Darrin Fisher, however, looks set to contradict conventional wisdom this fall.

“We have an awful lot of two-way players in our double-deep,” Fisher said. “We have these 31 seniors, and our guys are learning both sides of the ball; they’ve been doing this all summer. I think you’re going to see some familiar faces in some defensive positions that you’ve never seen them before…or vice versa.

“We try to increase our depth by making sure our guys are ready to play in all three phases.”

Fisher, of course, isn’t trying to crush his best horses; reps will be carefully managed, and those relied on to play larger roles on one side of the ball might see only one-off duty on the other. But the message during pre-season has been clear – you never know where and when you might be needed.

And if you stay ready, as West Coast rapper Suga Free once told us, you don’t have to obtain ready.

“I think he plays us both ways because he knows we have the potential to do something this year,” said senior Jakarrey Oliver, a long-serving full-back who is also expected to start in the position. center linebacker this fall. “We always need people – just in case someone gets sick, we need someone to fill the place who knows what they’re doing.”

Fellow senior Brady Stanifer, another defensive starter who should get offensive shots, said players up and down the roster are constantly prepared for double duty — and prepared for the physical wear and tear that comes with it.

“I feel like our coaches and staff are doing a great job of conditioning for this,” Stanifer said. “Throughout training, we run from point A to point B all the time and we train on both sides of the ball. Everyone does it.

Preparing for two-way status isn’t just physical, of course.

Several players are learning new positions on the fly, including Oliver, who has been almost exclusively an offensive player since moving to Whiteland from Florida in sixth grade.

“It’s not always as simple as stepping in and going to do it; you still have to learn plays and stuff,” he said. “Linebacker wasn’t easy for me when I got there…it wasn’t as easy as fullback.”

One of the few players not trained on both sides of the ball is senior quarterback Kevin Denham, who was thrust into the starting role at the start of last season and should be much more comfortable when of his first full season as QB1.

Players and coaches have expressed faith in Denham, who is undersized (5-foot-8, 139 pounds) but more than makes up for it in other ways.

“He’s special,” Stanifer said. “He has chemistry with all the guys; we grew up playing with him, a lot of the guys that played college with him already had chemistry with him playing JV and freshman the year before.

“The word I use for Kevin is moxie,” Fisher added. “Kevin has a huge amount of moxie. He’s been a quarterback in our system since he was sophomore, third year, and now he understands that he has responsibilities…and the more you put on his plate to make decisions at the within the attack, the better we improve.

All of Whiteland’s top players are putting more on their plate this season, whether it’s from a leadership perspective or increased physical workload. And there might be a reason for that. With two-time state champion Cathedral moved to Class 6A and section rival New Palestine now down to 4A, the Warriors have a window of opportunity to do big things – maybe even win their first regional title since 1999.

The company line under Fisher will always be ‘one game at a time’, and he warned his team against looking too far too soon, but the mood is still there below the surface – he doesn’t there’s no two ways about it.

“We know for sure that we have a chance to do something special that hasn’t been done here,” Stanifer said.

“Last year I feel like we should have won sections, but we didn’t,” agreed Oliver. “We just have to stay focused on the next opponent and not take the lead too much because we know what we can do.”



August 19; East Columbus

August 26; Lawrence North

September 2; in Decatur Central

September 9; franklin

September 16;Perry Meridian

September 23; in Martinsville

September 30; Mooresville

October 7; in Plainfield

October 14; Greenwood

(all matches scheduled at 7 p.m.)


Coach: Darrin Fisher

Last season: 6-4, lost to New Palestine in Class 5A sectional final

Main returnees: DL Sam Allen, RB/LB Devon Armstrong, TE Cameron Cooper, WB/DB Jonathan Crowley, OL/DL Mason Darlington, QB Kevin Denham, DL Peyton Dotson, DL Blake Driver, RB Peyton Emberton, OL/DL Will Hagan, OL Caleb Hall, LB/P Dalton Hughes, K David Mathis, OL Dylan Kidwell, OL/DL Josh Merriman, DB Kayden Milligan, FB/LB Jakarrey Oliver, OL Cameron Oxendine, LB Zeke Ramey, DB Ethan Rice, OL/DL Tayton Schakel, WR/DB Brady Stanifer and WR Kaden Turner, seniors; WB Gunnar Hicks and LB Alexander Ulloa, juniors; WB/DB Nyrius Moore-Smith, second year

Top new arrivals: DB Kaiden Davidson, OL Jaxon Fleming, OL Scott Harden and WR/DB Andrian Kolleigbo, juniors; WB/DB Maalik Perkins, second year

Outlook: The Warriors will have a few holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, where All-State performers Daniel Adams and Quinn Warweg are among many graduating starters, but Fisher plans to fill at least some of those vacancies by putting more of his top players from the both sides of the ball. From tough veterans like Crowley, Oliver, Schakel and Stanifer to young speedsters like Kolleigbo and Moore-Smith, Whiteland will stretch his versatility further than he has in recent years.

Offensively, Whiteland is brimming with experienced talent despite losing the state’s top tight end to Max Sullivan, now at Ball State. Ten starters return, with Denham under center behind five seniors on the offensive line. It’s still one of the strongest ground attacks in the state, and that’s not expected to change. The Warriors will rack up yards and points while eating a ton of clock.

Fisher talks about respecting every opponent and not looking to the future, but Whiteland has a golden opportunity ahead of him this year in Class 5A. Cathedral Megapower moved to 6A after winning the last two state titles, and another longtime rival, New Palestine, dropped back to 4A. The Warriors, who haven’t won a regional championship since 1999, have 31 seniors and a fantastic chance to end this drought. A tough regular season schedule that includes Lawrence North and Columbus East in addition to the ever-challenging Mid-State menu should set them up again in late October.