LIGONIER — West Noble will have a lot of new faces in key positions for the 2020 season.
The Chargers are coming off one of their best seasons in school history. In 2019, they went undefeated during the regular season for the first time since 1981 and won the NECC Big School division title, the first since 2014.
Their only loss came in the Class 3A sectional semifinals, a 42-20 defeat to Mishawaka Marian.
A big reason for that success was a deep, talented senior class, including Brandon Pruitt, who is now at the Naval Academy, and Josh Gross, who is playing football for Marian University. Those two, along with Kyle Mawhorter, Raven Slone, Xhua Martin-Garcia and Taylor Guzman left quite a few holes to fill on the field and in the locker room.
“Probably the leadership is going to be the hardest thing to make up,” West Noble head coach Monte Mawhorter said. “Because they’ve been used to following those kids for three or four years now. Somebody is going to have to step up and take over.”
Mawhorter said it will be a “group effort” to replace the production of last year’s senior class. He thinks the players he has on this year’s roster are talented enough and ready to make that leap to varsity football.
One area Mawhorter knows his team will be strong in is on the defensive line, which will feature returning starters in junior Braxton Pruitt, sophomore Zach Beers and senior Jeramyah James.
“We have Braxton back, Beers started as a freshman and Jeramyah was all-conference and he’s back there. Really, we just have one kid to find. Those three have done a really good job. They’re big, strong kids and will be really hard to move,” Mawhorter said.
Pruitt is one of the best returning players in the area. He finished with 61 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
“He’s gotten a lot bigger, a lot stronger and faster,” Mawhorter said.
Mawhorter added Pruitt will have a role on the offensive side of the ball this season, but in what capacity remains to be seen.
As a freshman, Beers tallied up 38 total tackles, seven for loss. James finished with six tackles for loss and four sacks.
Offensively, it’s going to be hard to replace Brandon Pruitt’s 1,394 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Early on, Mawhorter expects junior Gustavo Taylor, who rushed for 381 yards on 47 rushes as a sophomore, to take a lot of carries.
Senior Rocky Slone led the team in receiving as a junior with 18 catches, 353 yards and four touchdowns. As for who will be throwing him the ball, it’s still up in the air.
Mawhorter added there’s a lot of weapons that haven’t been seen yet and having a shortened summer did have an impact on who the leaders will be for this year’s Chargers.
“These kids have seen the process and what it takes to work to get there,” Mawhorter said.
Juniors Randy Villanueva and Peter Bradley and senior Efrain Salas are a few players Mawhorter mentioned who are expected to have a larger impact this season.
The Chargers open the 2020 season hosting rival Central Noble.