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COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF 2019: Wink Wildcats - Odessa American: Football

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Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 11:55 pm

WINK Wildcats head coach Brian Gibson doesn’t remember the last time he had a team with this much depth.

With so many players returning on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats will look to take advantage of the returning experienced players as they enter the 2019 season.

This year’s Wink High School football team brings back nine starters on offense and eight on defense.

“I feel like our depth is going to be really essential,” Gibson said. “That’ll be a real key for us this year. For the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to say that I’m too deep at every spot. If you don’t compete, you’re going to lose your job and depth is going to help us.”

Gibson also pointed out the strength of his team’s offensive line this season.

“Our offensive line is really going to carry us this year,” Gibson said. “We have a lot of skilled keys on our offensive line and it’s about as good of a line as I’ve ever coached.”

Not only do the Wildcats welcome back 17 starters, the team also brings back the entire coaching staff from last year as well.

“The consistency with the coaching staff staying put and the kids returning has raised the expectations for this team,” Gibson said. “That’s going to translate to what we need to do on the field to do well.”

Among the players returning from last year is senior quarterback Nick Gray.

“Any time you bring back a senior quarterback from a really productive junior year, that’s a good thing,” Gibson said. “Nick Gray is going to be outstanding this year. We look for amazing things from him. Our offensive line has so much talent that I can’t just say that one will be dominant over the other. We have some good centers coming back. We have a lot of experience and depth up front.”

With so much familiarity on the team, Gibson and his coaching staff haven’t had to reteach everything to everyone as much this year as in the past.

“It’s been fun because we haven’t had to spend much time teaching a scheme,” Gibson said. “We’ve been able to reintroduce things and refresh their memory and everything. We’ll attribute that to the UIL allowing us to work with the kids and doing some skill work. Our offensive line coaches have worked with the guys and work on their footsteps and the counter and the other things we do offensively. That little bit of time that the UIL has allowed us to do in the summer has helped out but I think the most important thing is the consistency and everyone knowing what to expect. That’s helped us to hit the field running and we’ve really enjoyed it so far."

The Wildcats are coming off a 7-5 overall record from 2018 that included a 1-2 showing in a four-team District 1-2A, Division II.

While a place in the state playoffs may already be secured, the Wildcats are looking to improve on last year’s third place finish in the district standings.

“I can tell you that our district is always going to be loaded with tradition-rich schools,” Gibson said. “There’s not a team in our district where you can walk in and say that you’re going to beat the snot out of. Everyone has to play their best game against each other on the field. Our kids know that this is a tough district and the goal is to win a district championship. To get to that point, we have to play well from the first step to the last step.”

But with the team starting up practices this week, Gibson says there’s been no shortage of excitement in returning to the field.

“It’s the same as what everyone has,” Gibson said. “It’s August and we’re really excited. It’s exciting for our kids to be back. It’s great to coach them again. It’s great having them back and seeing how they’ve matured over the years. We’re eager to get back to work and build on what we did a year ago.”

Senior left guard Noah Pilkington and his teammates are eyeing a first-place finish in the district standings.

“We have not won district at this school in a while and we think that should be everyone’s biggest goal,” Pilkington said.

With the number of players coming back, Pilkington believes he and his teammates have the right tools to go far in the playoffs.

“We’re very excited about this upcoming season and the work that we’ve put in during the offseason. We’re eager to see what we can do,” Pilkington said. “Having everyone coming back helps us be familiar with each other. We have great chemistry and we know how to work with each other. I’m super excited to be back with my team and with everyone going into this season.”

>>Follow Michael Bauer on Twitter at @OAMichaelba

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