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2019 Football Previews: Westminster adding ‘little different twist’ to culture with new leadership

Westminster's Ethan Zepp takes the ball during an abbreviated practice Saturday morning in Westminster.
Westminster's Ethan Zepp takes the ball during an abbreviated practice Saturday morning in Westminster. (Doug Kapustin / Carroll County Times)

Westminster enters the 2019 season with a new coach at the helm, and as members of a new region.

Chris Bassler, a former all-county standout from Francis Scott Key, who spent the last four seasons as the offensive coordinator at McDaniel College, is the 12th coach in Owls history. He took over for Matt Study, who coached the Owls for four years and led them to the Class 3A West Region final in back-to-back seasons.

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Bassler intends to build upon the culture set by Study and his coaching staff to maintain a disciplined, physical football team.

“We have a couple tough games out of the gate, so we’re going to find out how good we are in a hurry," the new coach said. "The big thing to stress is try to be more disciplined. We talk a lot about every time the ball gets spotted, we have to be the toughest, most physical team that shows up and hopefully that shows on Friday nights.”

The program lost a handful of 2018 Times all-county picks, which includes six first-teamers — Owen Babylon, Jacob Busic, Christian Etchison, Jaden Louis, Tavian Montgomery, and Joe Parry.

Babylon, Busic, and Parry anchored the Owls’ on defense, while Etchison, Louis, and Montgomery gave the team’s offense a boost. Louis was the county’s rushing leader with 965 yards and three touchdowns. Montgomery, an all-purpose athlete, caught 37 passes for 565 yards and seven TDs, and led the county with seven interceptions on defense.

The Owls return first-teamers Patrick Almony and Evan Warren to help lead this year’s team. Almony, a lineman, helped block for the Owls on offense. Warren, who recently announced his commitment to play football at Navy, commanded the county on special teams. Warren made 21 of 24 extra points and kicked five field goals as a junior last fall.

“I think we’ll be strong on both sides of the ball,” Warren said. “I think it’s anyone’s guess as to what we’ll look like with all the new weapons we have, so I’m excited to see some of our new guys get their first game action in a Westminster uniform.”

One of those “weapons” could likely be the addition of junior quarterback Jalen Bradford, who transferred to Westminster from South Western in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Bradford will likely take over for Christian Etchison, a 2018 first-team all-countian who graduated after leading the county with 1,916 passing yards and tossing 19 touchdowns.

Etchison helped the Owls to a Carroll County Athletic League championship in 2017, and their consecutive regional final appearances in 2017 and 2018. Bradford said this year’s Owls have a lot of potential and he is looking forward to seeing what the team can bring to the table.

“I’m excited to get out there with my teammates,” Bradford said. “They’re awesome and I work every day with them in practice so I’m excited to have the work pay off on Friday nights.”

The Owls host South River to open the season Friday, and join Manchester Valley and nine Howard County schools as 3A North in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Assocation’s new scheduling alignment.

Linganore ended Westminster’s season in both of those regional championship games, and the Owls visit the Lancers this season in Week 2. Their first county game is set for Sept. 20 on the road against longtime rival South Carroll.

“The defense will be very similar and the offense will be a lot different from what it’s been,” Bassler said. “There’s a little different personnel groups with a little different twist on things, but obviously we’re trying to stay as explosive as we can be and we want to dominate the line of scrimmage and dictate the defense what we want to do.”

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