Head WHS Football Coach Zane Aguilar has spent about a quarter-century around football, and he's only in his early 30's! He loves the game, playing it and coaching it, and that becomes very clear after just a few minutes of dialogue with the Ironduke's CEO. Not only that, the guy can sing!
Back to business...Coach Aguilar is a good sport and he cares greatly about the game of football and his players and what the game has to offer to those that become a part of it. I spoke with Coach Friday afternoon at WHS, and he shared several thoughts about the team and the program. He reminded me though it is still early, that 2-A-Days start Monday, and that he and his coaches will have a firmer idea by this coming week's end on who will be playing what positions, etc. Because of that, he did not want to speculate at this point, but will fill in those gaps soon.
Make no doubt about it, Coach Aguilar is big on the 2018 Crusader Football team just as he was big on some teams around the turn of the century. Coach graduated from WHS in 2004 and went on to play football at Coffeyville Community College. He finished up his academics at WSU and has coached in Wellington for the past 11 years, 8 as an assistant, 3 now as the Head Coach. Coach Aguilar is married to a lovely lady, Liz and they have two great kids, Clara and Micah. He appreciates family greatly and their support during the season and through-out the year.
I asked Coach what his goal was this year with this group and the true meaning of the game was evident in his response, "We have 14 seniors out this year, many of them will be starting for their 3rd year in a row. I want all of them to see the great opportunity before them to be successful, to learn how it feels to rebound from non-success, to rise up and ultimately prevail." Coach went on to say about his younger players, "I want them to gain experience from a program that is going in the right direction." In other words, the seniors have seen it all. As sophomores, "0" wins. as juniors "5" wins and a post season appearance for the first time in 6 years. Now, as SENIORS, it's time to move on up and he firmly believes they can. "This year's team is as talented overall as any." Coach is also happy he's been able to get some student-athletes back into the helmets & pads after having taken a hiatus from the sport. You sense a real bond between Coach and his seniors, and why not, they've been down the same road together and they all want the same thing.
The Crusaders did lose several linemen from last year's team (5) due to graduation, but those gaps are filling with some determined young men who want to prove they can get the job done. Numbers are good across the board. We mentioned seniors, there are a lot of juniors as well, and a few more sophomores, some that didn't play as freshmen, are back out.
Without too many specifics, and understandably so, Coach has this to say about his offensive and defensive plans for 2018, "On offense, it's important for us to establish the run but we will not be afraid to put the ball in the air - we will play up tempo. On the other side of the pigskin, create turnovers, play gap-sound defense, and we will swarm to the ball."
Coach was pleased with the participation levels this summer at the various PSQ sessions, camps, 7 on 7 play and more. The team hosted 7 on 7 action back in late June with Wichita South HS (SEE PICS) visiting here at Sellers.The Crusaders also traveled to Humboldt, KS for 7 on 7 play with host Humboldt and 3 other schools, Iola, Central Heights, and Burlington. Coach was very pleased with his boys and felt like the Humboldt experience brought the team together in significant ways.
There's one name that almost always comes up when you are talking to Coach Aguilar about Crusader Football, and that name is Coach John Gifford. His reverence and appreciation for the man is clearly evident and heartfelt. Reverence shared by many I might add. Coach also speaks highly of his coaching staff and has 3 new coaches this year. Coach Phelps decided to hang up his coaching shoes at the end of last season, Coach McComb the same, and Coach Ybarra and his family moved away. To fill those shoes, the coaching staff has 3 more Crusader alums to replace the 3 alums that moved on, Daniel Farley, Tonner Finch and Ryan Jenkins are on staff now and have joined the "veteran assistants", Ross Foley, Tim Lira, Ryan Elder and Nick Wellington. He speaks highly of the team's two managers also. Austin Fink and Rayce Koerner. "These 2 young men are highly efficient and play huge roles for our team."
Coach Aguilar is generally excited about the NEW 4A Playoff format being introduced this season. (s/a 5A & 6A are presently) Just briefly, there will no longer be district playoff games during weeks 7, 8 & 9. Instead, 4A has been divided into "2" 16 team divisions, EAST & WEST, After week #8, the KSHSAA will "seed" the 16 teams in each division (based on win/loss records and other criteria). The top 8 seeds will host the 9th week game, the bottom 8 seeds will travel for that 9th week game. The 9th week game will be the first bracketed game for post-season, the losers will be done for the season. Click Here for MORE INFO ABOUT NEW 4A PLAYOFF FORMAT.
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Coach Aguilar who his 14 seniors were...his response, "I don't have the lists with me but I will gladly tell you who they are!" (He didn't need a list, he's been with most of this group throughout his "HEAD" coaching career-they are like family).
THE SENIORS: Cody Metz, Jacob Ewing, Jack Nuss, Julian Burden, Grey Hatfield, DeAndre Washington, Michael Ledbetter, Julian Jimenez, Tyler Jimenez, Caleb Reichenberger, Trayson Probst, Chi Barton, Braden Struble, and Layton Corley - the Class of 2019 - well represented!
One more question for the Coach:
Q: What do you want this season, for your team and for your town?
A: "I want to bring the team and the town, a HOME PLAYOFF GAME." - dang right, we'll take it Coach! GO BIG RED!!
NOTE: The season opener is Aug. 31st @ Collegiate - kickoff @ 7PM. Don't forget the CRUSADER CLUB HAMBURGER SCRIMMAGE slated for Thursday, Aug. 23rd!