West Delaware’s 2019 varsity football team: front from left, Tate Mormann (ball boy), Alias Underwood, Ethan Proper, Caleb Wulfekuhle, Conner Funk, TJ Soppe, Isaac Fettkether, Trace Rowley, Will Halverson, Aiden Lee and Dylan Popp (ball boy); second row, assistant coaches Bob Morris, Jon Worden, Jesse Popp, Matt Lee and Corey Coates, head coach Doug Winkowitsch, assistant coaches Luke Imsland, Brent Lammers, Mark Becker, Dylan Linderwell, Bill Lester and Brad Wubbena; third row, Payton Lewin, Jadyn Peyton, Staveley Maury, Blake Engel, Jamison Smith, Raub Loecke, Elias Tibbott, Josh Seeley and McKinley Rans; fourth row, Sam Loecke, Cael Meyer, Mason Gillihan, Lukas Meyer, Cody Monaghan, Sam Lyness, Kale Rempe and Chad Bishop; fifth row, Kyle Cole, Tyler Traver, Jaxson Woellert, Logan Woellert, Carter Krogmann, Christian Nunley, Kieran Monaghan, Jared Voss and Grant Schnieders; sixth row, Luke Kehrli, Joe Burke, Ben Petlon, Carson Petlon, Mitchell Krogmann, Eric Salow, Kyle Kelley and Jacob Hosch. Not pictured, assistant coach Brandon Domeyer.

West Delaware has the size, speed and experience to return to the top of a very competitive Class 3A, District 3, with 11 returning starters, five offensive and six defensive, and 21 returning lettermen in camp this fall.

Coach Doug Winkowitsch, 121-41 in 16 seasons at West Delaware, is optimistic about the 2019 season after an uncharacteristic 5-4 season in 2018, when the Hawks battled injuries in several positions.

“We will have a talented team in key positions this fall,” he said. “We will have above average speed and our kids had a tremendous off-season. We have exceptional experience in our offensive skill positions and our offensive line is inexperienced but solid.”

Offensively, junior Cael Meyer will carry the mail after rushing 76 times for 585 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. Junior Kyle Kelley, 6-5, is the leading returning receiver after snagging 16 balls for 158 yards and two touchdowns last season.

A big, athletic offensive line should pave the way for a strong rushing attack, with juniors Mitch Krogmann (6-6, 305), Carson Petlon (6-6, 300) and Kieran Monaghan (6-2, 220) returning starters. Senior Ben Petlon (6-3, 240) should handle the punting duties and contribute in the line as well.

Linebackers Kale Rempe (75 tackles in 2018) and Joe Burke (57 tackles) will anchor the defense, while Sam Loecke and Tyler Traver started in the defensive backfield along with junior Jared Voss, who is in the race to replace graduated Nick Casey at quarterback.

Winkowitsch lists defensive back Kyle Cole, lineman Christian Nunley, linebacker Jamison Smith, wide receiver/defensive back Logan Woellert and tight end/linebacker Wyatt Voelker as players to watch.

A loaded district that features Cedar Rapids Xavier, Decorah, Waverly-Shell Rock and Independence awaits the 2019 Hawks.

“The entire district will be well-coached, fundamentally solid and competitive from top to bottom,” said Winkowitsch. “We need to focus on the fundamental aspects of football and develop adequate depth early in the preseason. In a district with so many quality teams, you must be ready each week and sustain it for four quarters.”