At its magic number for athletes, the Union football Wildcats are looking to improve on last year’s 7-3 record, 5-1 in the Four Rivers Conference.
“We’ve been up and down with some injury issues, but right now, we’re at 55 freshmen through seniors,” Union Head Coach Erick Webster said.
Union will continue to utilize its spread offense with senior quarterback Blake Hulsey running things.
“Blake, Logan Bellamy and Nick Eads (all seniors) have been really impressive so far,” Webster said. “We graduated three starting receivers last year, but I think we may be even better this year.”
Injuries have hit the receiver corps as well, but Webster indicated the team is working around it and hopes to have everyone back soon.
The stability will come from the backfield, where Hulsey and running backs Nick Maher and John Prosser (all seniors) return after accounting for most of the rushing yards last year.
Graduation hit the offensive line hard as well, Webster indicated.
“We lost Joe Lasky and Nathan Collins and they’re hard to replace,” Webster said. “Right now, we’re looking to find combinations and develop depth. We’ve got six or seven who can rep with us right now. We’re just trying to find the right mixture. Most of them got some real good looks at the Webster Groves camp.”
As things stand, Webster indicated senior Ben Jeffs has been the top center with senior Casey Peth stepping up at guard and sophomore Kieran Watson impressing at tackle.
Finding the other starters is going to be the key, Webster indicated.
While Union was hit by graduation, the team does have one transfer. Danny Arnold moved in from Pacific and has impressed so far, said Webster.
Union has one coaching change this year. Gary Vogel has returned to the staff while Chris Kelley has stepped down.
“Coach Kelley retired and Coach (Michael) Stewart is taking over the defense. We’ve got a little different look. He’s a good young coach. Coach Vogel returned for us and he’ll coach the secondary.”
Who is the next goalkeeper for the Union soccer Wildcats?
That’s one of the big questions during this season’s preseason training as Head Coach Matt Fennessey and Assistant Coach Josh Wideman try to find the next shot stopper.
Fennessey, a standout goalkeeper at Union, East Central College and Fontbonne University, stated that Korey Lucas and Josh Vandiver have emerged as the top contenders for the job.
“It’s back and forth right now,” Fennessey said. “We’re trying to figure things out. We’re looking for quality at the position and seeing if they’ve got it. Both of these boys do have it. They’re great athletes and can move around. Both have baseball backgrounds and Korey has played basketball as well.”
Both are vying to replace last year’s district championship goalkeeper, Trey Fink, who learned the position about this time last year. Fink stepped in for Dillen Myers, a two-year starter who went on to play at Harris-Stowe State University.
Fennessey and Wideman, who played in high school and college together, are the coaches for the Wildcats this season. Wideman will handle the junior varsity team as well.
Fennessey, who reports 32 players are out for the full program, said the team is looking forward to its second season at Stierberger Stadium.
“I didn’t realize what a great change this has been,” Fennessey said. “Going to the turf field gives us so many more benefits.”