WEBSTER – The stride toward a fast start later became a bit of a hobble.
After winning the first three games of the 2019 season, the Webster football team’s sprint was slowed by injuries and formidable opposition. But the challenges didn’t prevent the Tigers from a playoff berth, though they did hinder their playoff positioning and ability to advance.
“We felt we had the talent to be a level three (playoff) football team and if we didn’t end up with the eight seed to start the playoffs, we may have been closer,” Webster coach Andy Smith said. “Sitting with a 4-4 record, at worst we should have been the seven seed; I felt like we were the five (seed).”
With a 3-0 record through three games, the Tigers seemed on their way to a higher postseason seed, but they didn’t reach the midseason point before the starting lineup underwent weekly changes. Even worse for the Tigers, those included multiple changes at quarterback.
Austin Sigfrids started the season at quarterback but was lost for the season after breaking his ankle in the third game and Mason Gustafson assumed the role. Yet, his time at quarterback was cut short by a broken collarbone, forcing Webster to rely on a third option for more than half the season. That was Coleton Peterson, who was 23-for-78 for 204 yards and a touchdown, though he is among the senior class moving on before the 2020 season.
“Losing our first- and second-string quarterbacks changed who we were offensively,” Smith said. “We had to do things differently, but I felt we were in every football game.”
Sigfrids – a sophomore – went 22-for-51 in his three games at quarterback, throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Gustafson – a junior – attempted just five passes, completing two, before his injury. Fortunately for the Tigers, Smith said both players have recovered and have seasons of eligibility remaining. However, the rest of the backfield will get a shuffle in the offseason.
The team’s leading rusher – Nathan Stadler – totaled 724 yards and eight touchdowns on 144 carries in his senior season. Keith Glienke – fourth on the team with 219 yards rushing and a touchdown – also played his final game for the team. Glienke also led the team with 55 tackles, meanwhile Peterson ranked second on the team with 334 yards rushing and two touchdowns, along with leading the team with 10 catches and 132 yards receiving.
But the crew blocking for those backs, as well as manning the defensive front, will have the most turnover. Harlo Olson, Dalton McCarthy, Jacob Berg, Dusty Miller, James Magnuson and Ethan Score were seniors playing the line on both sides.
Smith was encouraged by some of the underclassmen forced to play a larger role due to the lineup changes, who he hopes will have a full season with a more constant cast around them.
“We had quite a few sophomore kids step up and we needed it,” he said. “We were down 10 starting positions at the end of the season and there are lots of holes to fill for next season.”
Xavier Stanton, Tanner Peterson and Tallon Parent are among those whose departure will create spots to fill for Webster in 2020.
But in addition to their quarterbacks, the Tigers also could return contributors on both sides of the ball. C.J. Abbas – a sophomore – was third on the team with 220 yards rushing and a touchdown; fellow sophomore Gage Rossow was second on the team with seven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown. Another sophomore – Evan Sikorski – was second on the team with 41 tackles.
“We won’t have as much talent as we did this season, but we’re hoping to have kids who’ll dedicate themselves to the team and make-up the difference,” Smith said.
The Tigers finished 2019 with a 4-5 overall record and were fifth in the Lakeland Conference with a 3-4 record.