Winamac football preview: Veteran team seeks back-to-back sectionals
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Taking over in May 2020, coach John Hendryx guided the Winamac football team to the seventh sectional title in school history less than six months later.
The season ended with a 37-32 loss to Lafayette Central Catholic in the regional. Lafayette Central Catholic was coming off a state championship season in 2019. Losing to Central Catholic, a program with eight state titles in their history, could serve as the jumping-off point for 2021.
“Honestly, I thought the biggest game of the year for us was the loss to Central Catholic in the regional,” Winamac assistant coach Mark Hendryx said. “Everybody knows about Central Catholic. Well, I think they saw … that we can play with these guys, and we can play with these so-called quote-unquote elite schools. It was great for them and great for their confidence. I think it really helped us this winter. We had a great winter turnout in the weight room, winter and spring. … We’re not strong, but we’re a lot stronger than we were. We’re headed in the right direction.”
The weight room philosophy at Winamac is seemingly holistic. John Hendryx notes how the players have grown bigger, stronger and faster. But the coaches take the time to learn about their players as people, according to Mark Hendryx.
“We have a lot better relationships with the kids,” Mark Hendryx said. “We grow those in the weight room, and we did not have weight room time until the winter. … You get to know the kids not as football kids. We know what that is. But you get to know them really well. The relationships, at least I think for John and myself, really grow with those kids in the weight room and just seeing them every day outside football.”
It’s a veteran coaching staff – John Hendryx is in his 29th season as a high school head coach – and a veteran roster. Winamac has 20 senior players, a treasure trove of experience for a Class 1A team. Perhaps noting that experience, pollsters have graced them with the No. 10 ranking to start the season.
And there might be one more thing in its favor: Lafayette Central Catholic moved up to Class 2A per the IHSAA Success Factor this year.
Russell Compton returns for his fourth year as the varsity quarterback. He’ll hand off to fellow seniors like Hayden Clark, Jaden Terry and Xavier Holehan. Holehan is a move-in from a high school in Texas.
Sophomore Jadon Jones could have an expanded role on the varsity.
Caleb Good, a senior in his first year of high school football, caught a 65-yard touchdown pass on Winamac’s first play from scrimmage in the scrimmage against Rochester. Brayden Heater and Shawn Pratt are two other senior receivers.
The skill position players will operate behind an offensive line consisting of five seniors: Kyle Olds, Logan Schultz, Caleb Seymour, Jaxon Roudebush and Jaiden Klingerman. Klingerman, the left tackle, is a move-in from Plymouth. Dylan Brown and Brendan Day are two more senior offensive linemen that add to the depth.
Tyler Perry, yet another senior, is a newcomer who could factor in at tight end along with junior Beau Brandt.
Schultz was a Junior All-State player on the offensive line.
Compton, who had an interception return for a touchdown in the regional loss, made the Indiana Football Coaches Association Junior All-State team last year as a safety. He forms a 1-2 safety combination with Terry, an honorable mention all-Hoosier North pick last year.
“Russell is a special player,” Mark Hendryx said. “He was Junior All-State last year. Most people, they hear Russell’s name, and they think about quarterback. That’s not Russell’s forte. I think Russell wants to go play at the next level, but he wants to do it defensively. … He opened a lot of guys’ eyes with him last year defensively.”
Schultz, Olds and junior Zayne Bell are stalwarts on the defensive line. Perry is a newcomer to the defensive line.
In addition to Compton and Terry, the back seven includes Brandt and Clark at the linebacker spots and Good, Holehan, junior defensive back Michael Loehmer.
Playing their 4-2-5 defense, Winamac allowed only nine points per game in their seven wins.
John Hendryx is keeping the goals simple.
“Be better every Friday than the one before,” John Hendryx said. “That’s our goal. Where it ends, it will end. But we just have to improve every week.”
The leadership needed to accomplish that would appear to be ample. John Hendryx was asked who the team leaders are.
“We’ve got a lot of them,” John Hendryx said. “When you’ve got 20 seniors, you’ve got a lot of kids that have been there and done it. Obviously, Russell, Brandt, Clark, Schultz, Olds, and not just them, all of them. They do a great job with the young kids in practice. The new guys, they’re still feeling their way. But those seniors that have been here, they’ve just been a joy to work with because they’re like extra coaches on the field for us.
“They’re guys we’re going to miss, but I’m really glad we have them now.”
Aug. 20 – at Knox, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 27 – vs. Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Sept. 3 – at North White, 7 p.m.
Sept. 10 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 – at North Judson, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 24 – vs. Culver, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 – at West Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 – vs. Caston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 – vs. Triton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 – Class 1A, Sectional 41 quarterfinal
Class 1A, Sectional 41 (records last year)
Lake Station (0-9)
North Judson (9-3)
South Central (Union Mills) (4-6)
South Newton (0-6)
West Central (2-8)
Preseason rankings: Winamac is No. 10, and North Judson is No. 12.
NOTE: Winamac is the defending sectional champion. Winamac has won seven sectional titles in its history. Tim Roth coached Winamac to sectional titles in 1985, 2000, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. John Hendryx coached Winamac the sectional title in 2020.