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Football Preview: Owls' 'brotherhood' in place for success

Owls running back Jaden Louis carries the ball during an afternoon practice in Westminster on Aug. 28, 2018.
Owls running back Jaden Louis carries the ball during an afternoon practice in Westminster on Aug. 28, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The Class 3A West region boasts tough talent every year, and Westminster’s football players are all too familiar — it’s only made their motivation stronger.

The Owls went undefeated in county play last season to capture their first county championship since 2013 and earned a spot in the Class 3A West Region playoffs. In the regional semifinals, the Owls routed Watkins Mill 58-18 to advance to the regional final against Linganore.

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These region foes met in Week 3 of the regular season and the Lancers got the best of Westminster, 50-28. The Lancers reigned supreme the second time around and held off the Owls 16-14 to capture the regional title and eventually, a state championship.

“It’s the momentum knowing we could have gotten even farther last year,” senior quarterback Christian Etchison said. “We’re all motivated because everyone saw what happened last year and everyone saw just how close we were. We knew that whoever was winning that game was winning the state championship and we were right. It could have been us, and that’s pretty much everyone’s motivation right now.”

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Zane Lewis, the reigning Times Player of the Year, has graduated along with Logan Nave, TJ Schatz, Max Sommerville, and Brandon Allen, among others — each of which played key roles in the team’s success last season.

Five first-team all-countian Owls are back this season — Etchison, who threw for 1,809 yards and 24 touchdowns last year, senior running back Jaden Louis (115 carries, 710 yards, 10 touchdowns), junior kicker Evan Warren, lineman Jacob Busic (49 tackles), and defensive back Tavian Montgomery (49 tackles, five interceptions).

Matt Study is in his 10th season with the Owls program and this is his fourth as coach. He said he expects a lot of his players to play on both sides of the ball this season.

“We have athletes and it’s very beneficial for us to be able to do that,” Study said. “We just want to put our best guys on the field at all times and let them make plays. We’re pretty deep with the amount of guys that are able to do that, so we’re able to rotate and let a lot of guys play.”

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Westminster uses a multiple spread offense and a 4-2-5 base defense.

Expect to see senior Ryan Clatterbuck and junior Haden Hoff on both ends, at receiver and defensive back, and sophomore Erick Stranko at running back and linebacker.

“I feel like the brotherhood is so compact,” Montgomery said. “We all hang out after school and everything; we all are really good friends and we all help each other if someone has a problem, we all have each other’s backs.”

The Owls open their season against Urbana at home on Friday and the game will be featured as the Ravens RISE High School Football Showdown Game of the Week.

Fans can vote for an area high school football match-up to be featured by the Ravens and the Baltimore Sun every week of the high school football regular season. The selected game will receive visits from the Ravens cheerleaders and the team’s mascot, Poe, as well as have their stadium decorated in Ravens banners and flags.

Westminster quarterback Christian Etchison throws a pass during an afternoon practice Tuesday, August 28, 2018.
Westminster quarterback Christian Etchison throws a pass during an afternoon practice Tuesday, August 28, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The other two match-ups in this week’s poll were Allegany at Dunbar (5,805 votes) and Milford Mill at Tuscarora (10,266 votes). Urbana and Westminster’s Week 1 showdown accumulated 46,333 votes at the time of the poll’s closing on Tuesday.

“It’s cool to be back with the boys doing what we love to do,” Montgomery said. “It’s the best time of the year, it’s pretty much like Christmas, the first game of the season.”

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