OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Weber State football team ended a 7-year playoff drought last season, making the FCS playoffs, ending the season with a record of 7-5.
But that means the expectation bar has been set even higher in 2017.
With 15 returning starters, the Wildcats want more.
“Yeah, that’s the goal,” said quarterback Stefan Cantwell. “Make the playoffs and then keep moving on from there. Not just the one and done show like we had last year.”
“We’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs anymore,” said all-American candidate tight end Andrew Vollert. “A first round exit is just not acceptable. So, we’re trying to make some noise and try to make a playoff run.”
Weber State is getting national respect, ranked 22nd in the FCS preseason poll.
“We expect to be better than last year,” said head coach Jay Hill, about to enter his fourth season at the helm. “We’ve got a lot of returning starters. We’ve got a lot of veteran starters who have been to the playoffs. We’ve made some runs at conference championships and now we’ve got to finish those runs.”
“I try not to look too much at that stuff,” Vollert added. “It’s just preseason stuff, so at the end of the day, who really cares? But we’ve come a long way.”
Cantwell, who led Bingham High to two state championships in 2009 and 2010, takes over at quarterback, where he hopes to pick up where Jadrian Clark left off last season.
“He set the bar high, but he was there to help me train and help me to grow,” Cantwell said about Clark, who threw for 3,028 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. “I have taken those talents and skills and added a little bit of my own.”
The Wildcat defense is led by cornerback Taron Johnson, who thinks this group should be even stronger.
“I honestly think that we’re going to have a better defense than we did last year,” Johnson said. “Our defensive line has come along tremendously, and I feel like they’re better than they have ever been.”
With 48 local high school players on the team, Weber State takes pride in truly representing the state of Utah.
“It’s important to us,” Hill said. “It’s important to the coaches, it’s important to the community right now that we have a good team. The players, the more local kids we bring in, the more that passion and energy has grown for the program.”
And that passion is reflected in Hill, who is known to take reps running receiver routes with the team.
“It’s fall camp, we’re hot, we’re tired, we’ve been practicing all day,” Cantwell said. “But when you see coach is out there running around, it just puts a smile on your face.”
“It’s fun for me because I get to show the players that I love the game,” Hill said. “It’s good for me, too. It keeps me in shape and keeps me young. The grey hairs are coming, but at least I can try to keep some cardiovascular shape.”
Weber State opens the 2017 season September 2nd at home against Montana Western.