Aug. 10—The Winamac football team faces perhaps an unprecedented dilemma in having to replace 20 starters lost to graduation this season.
The Warriors return just two starters — one on each side of the ball.
Senior defensive end Zayne Bell and junior wingback Jadon Jones are the Warriors' two returning starters from last year's team that went undefeated in the regular season.
First-year Winamac coach Josh Burgess said the Warriors will lean heavily on Bell and Jones this season.
"Offensively Jadon will see a lot of carries. He's a great player for us," Burgess said. "Not overly big but man, he's fast, he's quick, works hard. Not that he wasn't in good shape last year but I think he knows that he's the guy and he's in phenomenal shape right now and looks really good.
"Zayne's a great player too. Zayne started for us as a sophomore. He's does a lot of good things for us at defensive end, kind of controls half the field. He's tough to deal with. So we're fortunate to have those two guys back to build on."
The Warriors lost 20 seniors to graduation from last year's team that went 8-1 and had their first undefeated regular season since 2014. They also won a share of the HNAC title.
They lost two players who are now playing college football, Russell Compton, an Indiana North All-Star who is now playing safety at Trine, and Logan Schultz who is now playing offensive tackle at Marian.
Jones was a big-play threat on last year's Winamac team. He rushed for 292 yards on 28 carries (10.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and had three catches for 98 yards and a TD.
He'll be asked to carry the ball more this season. He said the Warriors will do their best to continue the tradition of Winamac football.
"Small team, we'll see what we can do this year. I'm excited," he said. "There's going to be spotlights on a couple people, we've just got to get the job done really.
"It will be tough. We'll try our hardest."
Jones said it was fun playing on last year's senior-led team.
"It was a great team, it was a great experience," he said. "I loved them. I hated to see them go but you've just got to keep moving on."
The Warriors have a new coach this year in Burgess but all of the rest of the assistant coaches are also returning. Former coach John Hendryx is now the offensive coordinator at Carroll as his son-in-law, Blake Betzner, is the head coach there.
The Warriors return a veteran coaching staff overall. Burgess has over 20 years of experience as a defensive coordinator and will continue calling the defensive plays as the head coach. Longtime offensive coordinator Mark Hendryx returns to that post.
"Not new at all," Jones said of the coaching staff. "I've been with them for quite awhile, love them as coaches."
Bell is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound defensive end. He plays wide receiver on offense. He had 34 tackles, 11 assists, eight tackles for a loss, four fumble recoveries, two sacks and one batted pass last year as a junior.
He is just one of five seniors on the team this year.
"My thoughts on that is it doesn't really matter about the number of seniors, it just matters about who makes up the team and everybody here is family," Bell said. "In my opinion if you're a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, you're good in my book. Let's all come together.
"My outlook is we have everything down pat, everybody is pitching in, listening, doing what they're supposed to do, asking questions. We're all doing the right thing."
Winamac hosts Knox on Aug. 19 to open the season. The Pharos-Tribune's season preview tab will run in the Aug. 19 edition.