Warhawks begin season ranked No. 4

Bullis has depth at tailback- has not announced starting QB

Ethan Maurice, Sports Editor

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The Warhawk football team is poised to make 2019 a memorable year at Perkins Stadium after a deep playoff run ended in heartbreak last season. The WIAC champion Warhawks kick off the season Saturday, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. against Dubuque (Iowa) at home.

The game will take place following the performance by Jesse McCartney at noon, followed by Senior Day festivities before the 2 p.m. kickoff.

The Warhawks enjoyed success last season, finishing the season with a 14-1 record. Their only loss came in the national championship semi-final against eventual champion University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. However, the 2019 edition of the Warhawks have reloaded and are ready for the high expectations that seem to accompany the start of every new season.

After starting last season ranked 12th in the nation, the Warhawks ended the season as one of the last four teams standing. They’ll pick up right where they left off, and are ranked 4th in the nation by the NCAA & d3football.com.

“We started off great last spring,” said Head Coach Kevin Bullis. “We took a little bit of a physical load off some guys, and the NCAA has actually changed some things for us as well.”

Reloading is always tricky in football but, luckily for Bullis, he has options at most positions, especially under center. “We do have some young QB’s, but ultimately they are our leaders on the field,” said RB Ronny Ponick.

“That’s the $10,000 question,” said Bullis when asked who the starting quarterback would be.  “But coming out of last spring, Max Meyler and Zach Oles separated themselves from the group.”

Whitewater enjoyed immense success on offense last season, leading the league by scoring 39.2 points per game. They’ll need Oles or Meyler to uphold the standard set by Cole Wilber, who threw the joint-most touchdowns in the WIAC last season.

“Zach is kind of a gritty, hard-nose… blue collar quarterback” stated Bullis. “Max is that high- energy quarterback. Great athlete,” he said. “He was a fantastic basketball player as well.  They really both bring different pieces to it.”

Rather than having the QB battle be a divisive point in the locker room, the team has enjoyed the intersquad competition.

“It’s great to have guys constantly competing because that’s how much better we’re able to get every day,” said junior Quinn Meinerz. Meinerz, who is one of four returning starters on the Offensive Line, was recently named second team All-America.

The running backs’ room is also heavily competitive for the 2019 Warhawks. With another All-American returning in Alex Peete, it would be easy to expect Bullis to ride his bell-cow back.             

However, Senior Captain Ponick will also carry the ball, especially in short yardage situations. Jarrod Ware also returns from injury this season, and is expected to be a factor in the Warhawk Backfield.

“You’ve got three fellas that are fantastic. The interesting thing to me is that you’ve got 3 different running backs,” said Bullis. “AP is this disciplined fast athletic guy, very systematic in his approach. RP is just a freight train, it’s that simple. And then you’ve got Jarrod Ware. His ability to catch the ball. He’s a guy that played slot for us. You put him in open space with the ball, that’s a pretty big challenge for a linebacker or safety.”

With all the new faces, look for the Warhawks to put up big points on offense in the first game against Dubuque. They will need to build good momentum to sustain a playoff push late in the season agains tougher teams. But this is the sort of challenge the team looks for and strives to overcome. The Warhawks aim to do just that.