MANCHESTER — West Delaware football coach Dough Winkowitsch has a problem.
It’s a good problem, but still a problem.
“We have to figure out who we are offensively,” he said when asked about the wealth of offensive talent the Hawks return this season.
The 2018 Hawks could be an explosive passing team with Nick Casey throwing to the likes of Mitchel Mangold and Logan Winn. Casey completed 55.2 percent of his 248 passes as a junior, for 1,914 yards and 15 touchdowns. Mangold caught 43 of those passes for 514 yards and three TDs. Winn had 10 catches for 115 yards.
Or Casey could simply hand off to senior Caleb Kehrli, who totaled 1,209 rushing yards in 2017 with 18 touchdowns. Jordan Bries can come in in relief after averaging 7.4 yards per carry last season, totaling 686.
What’s a coach to do?
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Winkowitsch said.
The plan likely will be a balanced attack, something that will keep opposing defenses guessing.
The likely outcome will be another successful season for the Hawks.
“We’re going to be long and pretty athletic,” Winkowitsch said.
Casey, he said, is the “real deal.” He worked hard in the offseason, competing in track and baseball, but also spending a lot of time in the weight room.
“He’s been an absolute asset this offseason,” Winkowitsch said. “A mountain of improvement ... bigger, stronger, faster.”
Casey isn’t worried about flashy numbers, however. It’s his final year wearing a West Delaware helmet and he just wants to win.
“This is what you’re going to remember,” he said.
“We feel pretty good about our team. Now it’s just mentally getting ready. Being in the right frame of mind.”
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That will be a must with the daunting schedule the Hawks drew this fall. After last year’s 8-3 campaign that ended in the Class 3A quarterfinals, West Delaware drew a schedule that includes non-district games against Dubuque Wahlert, Marion, Mount Vernon and defending state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier. In district play, there’s perennial powers Waverly-Shell Rock and Decorah, among others.
“I think this is the toughest schedule I can recall,” said Winkowitsch, in his 24th season as a head coach and his 16th at West Delaware. “Every week you’re going to have to bring your ‘A’ game.”
Casey and Kehrli seem undaunted, looking only at the Wahlert game on Aug. 24.
“I’m excited to see where it goes,” Kehrli said.
There’s a lot of excitement in Manchester about this team.
“We’ve had a tremendous offseason,” Winkowitsch said. “The guys have been working extremely hard.
“(But) we’ve got to bet better up front ... We have to make sure we put the puzzle together.”
Casey and Kehrli are feeling good.
“I’m feeling more confident,” Casey said.
“It will be interesting to see how it turns out,” Kehrli said.
West Delaware, at a glance
Coach: Doug Winkowitsch (16th year at West Delaware, 116-36; 24th year overall)
Last year: 8-3, lost in Class 3A quarterfinals
Top returners: QB Nick Casey, WR/DB Mitchel Mangold, WR/DB Logan Winn, DB Gavin Soppe, RB Caleb Kehrli, RB/DE Jordan Bries, OL/LB Ben Ridenour, OL Bryce Tucker, DT Matt Wichman, DE Derek Krogmann
Key to making the playoffs: Surviving the non-district portion of the schedule (Wahlert, Marion, Mount Vernon, Xavier) and having enough fuel in the tank to win the district title. This is a very talented team that needs to find a little depth and “focus on fundamentals,” Winkowitsch wrote in his questionnaire.
Games to watch: Where do you start? The Hawks open at home against Dubuque Wahlert, then visit Marion and Mount Vernon before hosting defending state champ Xavier on Sept. 14. That’s the game could tell just how good these Hawks can and will be.
Aug. 24 — Dubuque Wahlert
Aug. 31 — at Marion
Sept. 7 — at Mount Vernon
Sept. 14 — Cedar Rapids Xavier
Sept. 21 — at Independence
Sept. 28 — Waverly-Shell Rock
Oct. 5 — at Decorah
Oct. 12 — Charles City
Oct. 19 — Waterloo East