High school football 2023 preview: Get to know Westville

Aug. 24—Love of the game

Tyler Miller didn't start playing football until his freshman year at Westville. He never had the intention to either. "I didn't even want to play football," said Miller, who is now a senior tight end/defensive end for the Tigers. "I just never did it before and didn't want to step out of my comfort zone." That Miller would go out for football as a freshman was the result of then Westville basketball coach Drew Arteaga and still Westville football coach Guy Goodlove. If Miller was going to play the former, he was going to play the latter, too. Consider him volun-told. "My mom was like, 'You're playing football? Coach Arteaga just called me,'" Miller said. "I was like, 'That's news to me.' I started playing my freshman year and didn't play much or really know what I was doing. I started figuring it out a little bit and started last year and really liked it a lot."

Season outlook

Goodlove has an interesting take on football experience. Freshmen cause problems because they don't know any better. Sophomores are able to cut that number down, and juniors shouldn't be causing any. Seniors? Those should be a team's problem solvers. Westville will lean on senior quarterback Drew Wichtowski in that role this fall. Wichtowski, who doubles as a defensive end, rushed for 420 yards and six touchdowns last season and completed 25 of 44 passes for 398 yards and six more touchdowns. He runs the show for the Tigers. "If there's any questions in the huddle, he answers them," Goodlove said. "He directs the huddle. What he says goes. It's nice having that leadership out there on the field. Really, he's a fullback/tight end playing quarterback. He's got that build. He's very athletic and very intelligent. Man, that's a big plus heading into this season, especially with how young we are in certain spots."

Playoffs ... or bust

Two things stand out about Westville's schedule this season. No Saturday games after playing four of them — Seneca, Watseka, Clifton Central and Oakwood — last year and a closed Vermilion Valley Conference. Seneca and Dwight/Gardner-South Wilmington have moved on the Chicagoland Prairie Conference. The Tigers don't get any early breaks in a closed VVC either, with games against Salt Fork and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin the first two weeks of the season. "We have to know what the heck is going on out of the gate," Goodlove said. "I've got some returning players — starters, plus guys who didn't start but got a lot of playing time — and then I've got a whole group of kids that played Monday night and Monday night only. You go from Monday night to Friday night, and that's a big jump. We're going to have to grow up in a hurry."

Odds and ends

The annual "Coal Bucket" game against Georgetown-Ridge Farm falling on Week 4 of the season is atypical. It's a Week 9 staple most seasons. A Sept. 15 showdown in Georgetown just puts bragging rights on the line a little earlier. "There's a different feeling than all the other games," Westville senior lineman Brennan Burnett said. "I'd say it's different type of accomplishment than the other games because we know what's on the line," Miller added. "We're playing for bragging rights," senior linebacker Trent McMasters concluded. Goodlove had heard about the "Coal Bucket" before he took the Westville job and got his first win in 1997 in his third season. "When you're sitting up at the American Legion 20 years from now and having a beer and here's Georgetown people sitting across from you, you want to make sure you've got bragging rights over them," the Westville coach said to his players.