Winamac football preview: Gearhart takes over at QB for Burgess’ 2nd year
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Winamac football team went 2-8 last season in Josh Burgess’ first season as coach.
The two wins were their fewest in a season since 1992, and it was the aftermath of a 2021 season in which the team went 8-1 – their only loss was to North Judson in the sectional semifinals – and coach John Hendryx retired and 20 players graduated.
Burgess has changed personnel, moving senior Max Gearhart to quarterback and moving Cash Roth from quarterback to wide receiver.
The roster, which consists of 33 players, includes 11 seniors. Gearhart has three senior running backs to whom he can hand the ball, including Jadon Jones, Maddox Bucinski and Willis Dennis Jr. He also has a senior wide receiver in Jayse Bentle and a senior tight end in Aiden Day.
Three starting offensive linemen – left tackle Wyatt Wheeler, left guard Max Keller and right tackle Elijah Matthews – are also seniors.
The other starting offensive line are Charles Disinger, a sophomore who started at center as a freshman but is moving to right guard this year; and Cody Wheeler, Wyatt’s younger brother who will start at center as a freshman.
“The 33 kids that we have have been real consistent throughout the summer getting in,” Burgess said. “They were consistent in the spring. Had a lot of those kids in weights class this spring. … We’ve got 11 seniors this year, so it’s a little bit different. We’ve flipped the script there, and really everybody varsity-wise has a year of varsity experience. We played a lot of guys that maybe weren’t necessarily ready to be varsity players last year, but that’s not an excuse this year.
“We’ve got guys that have been through it and have been through a season, so just really happy with what we’ve seen so far,” Burgess said.
Winamac averaged 33 points per game in their two wins but just eight points per game in their eight losses.
“We have a senior quarterback, but he’s a first-year quarterback in Max Gearhart,” Burgess said. “We made the switch at quarterback. It just works better with our personnel, getting Cash Roth a little more involved. At split end and defensive back, we’ll get him in there.”
Burgess also called the offensive line play “greatly improved.”
Burgess also said he has “tweaked” the practice schedule for more group film study instead of asking the players to study film on their own.
Burgess has also emphasized special teams play.
“That was one thing that I dropped the ball with last year, especially early on,” Burgess said. “Special teams bit us a couple times, so as a staff, we got together and talked about some of those things. Just a few small tweaks and changes in our practice schedule, and I think what we’ve done is going to help us out through the season.”
While this is Josh Burgess’s second year as head coach, he said it’s his 23rd year in coaching.
“It’s different when you’re the head guy,” Burgess said when asked what the difference is between being a first-year coach and a second-year coach. “The coaching stuff, I knew what that was going to involve, but just a lot of the behind-the-scene things that sometimes don’t have a lot to do with coaching, the administrative responsibilities, things along those lines. I think as a second-year coach, I think I’m a little more prepared and a little more aware of some of those things. Not that I had a lot of surprises last year, but just some things that I didn’t think would take as long and as much time as what they did.
“I’m very fortunate here. I have outstanding administrative support with our principal, with our AD, superintendent, school board. And my staff is top-notch. Those guys have all been with me for a long time. I lean pretty heavily on those guys to get some things done too. Just excited to be back, and I really appreciate the opportunity.”
Burgess will also be the defensive coordinator. Josh Burgess, Brandon’s brother, is the offensive coordinator. Mark Hendryx remains on staff and will work with the offensive line. Dalton Button will work with the offensive and defensive linemen. Levi Schultz will coach wide receivers and defensive backs.
Aug. 18 – at Knox, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 25 – vs. Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 – at North White, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 – at North Judson, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 – vs. Culver, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 – at West Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 – vs. Caston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 – vs. Triton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 – Class 2A, Sectional 34 quarterfinal
(NOTE: One team in Sectional 34 will receive a bye and not play on Oct. 20.)
Class 2A, Sectional 34
Lafayette Central Catholic