Changes abound for Gillett this fall

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Tigers to be stronger, faster in 8-man
By: 

Chris Caporale sports@wolfrivermedia.com

The Gillett football program, coming off a winless season and transitioning to the eight-man game this fall with a new coach, has seen its fair share of change in one year.

With new head coach Jesse Witcraft, the Tigers are excited to get back on the field.

“It’s going to be better than last year,” said senior Sam Davis, who can play running back and safety. “I know that.”

Gillett went 0-9 last year in the Marinette & Oconto Conference, averaging 5.2 points per game and allowing 39. This season, Witcraft hopes to change the plan of attack offensively on a week-to-week basis to keep the athletes learning and put more pressure on opposing defenses.

“I’ll vary it week to week,” Witcraft said. “It just depends on who we’re playing and what I see in practice that week. I’ll draw up new plays week to week, so I’ll go into every game with different plays, which helps keep the competition on their toes.”

Witcraft, who started coaching in Gillett in 2013, has, at some point, coached almost every player on the current varsity roster.

Gillett’s junior varsity and junior high programs were eight-man teams for the past few years, which should help the varsity’s transition into the eight-man game and the MONLPC-8 Conference.

Witcraft believes the familiarity and experience will create some success when the team opens its season Aug. 19 at Green Bay NEW Lutheran.

“I try to keep some of the calls and some of the formations similar to what they’ve been used to in the past with me,” Witcraft said. “Some of the older guys, it’s a little bit of an adjustment, but some of the younger guys are grasping it a little bit easier.”

So far, Witcraft’s focus has been on installing the offense and working on the conditioning of the athletes, who he said have come into the season bigger, stronger and more enthusiastic than in years past.

The work in the weight room has improved size and speed for most of the team.

“I think we’ll be strong on the interior and fast on the edge,” Witcraft said.

Although the Tigers have yet to put in much work defensively, Witcraft understands the importance of the group in the open-field game.

Gillett will face some experienced eight-man squads, but two opponents on the calendar, Newman Catholic and Wausaukee, are in the same boat as the Tigers, making the transition this season.

“It’s really going to come down to, I think, defensively what teams can do,” Witcraft said. “If we can stop teams defensively or vice versa, that’s what’s going to win games, I think. Because I think you’re going to score in this league. It’s whether or not you can stop them.”

Witcraft replaced Steve Andrastek, who resigned after one season after accepting a new job that would interfere with the team’s practice schedule. The Tigers qualified for the WIAA playoffs in 2014 and 2015, including winning a playoff game over Wild Rose in 2014.

AT A GLANCE

Gillett High School

Football Schedule

Aug. 19 at NEW Lutheran

Aug. 25 vs. Menominee Indian

Aug. 31 at Lena/STAA

Sept. 8 at Newman Catholic

Sept. 15 vs. Gibraltar

Sept. 22 at Gresham/Bowler

Sept. 29 vs. Wausaukee

Oct. 6 at Sevastopol

Oct. 13 vs. Oneida Nation