Quarterback Brock Hillyer paved the way for many senior West Branch soccer players who helped the team end the 2020 season with an 8-2 record at the Eastern Buckeye Conference Championship.
Hillyer, a double-threat player who led an offense that averaged over 40 points per game last fall and helped the Warriors go from 2 to 8 in 2019, had previously signed to Marietta College.
His teammates Alek Wilson, Andrew Coffee, Josh Gregory and David McKeivier also opted for the Division III football path. Wilson will join Hillyer at Marietta, Coffee and Gregory both chose Grove City (Pa.) And McKeivier chose Geneva (Pa.) College.
Marietta attends the Ohio Athletic Conference with Mount Union. Grove City and Geneva are rivals in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. Grove City were 2-2 in a shortened 2020 season after a 9-2 mark in 2019. Geneva was 2-3 in 2020 after a 3-7 2019 campaign.
“They have a love for the game and they want to try and keep playing football to the next level,” Western Branch coach Ken Harris said.
Wilson, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound backer, ran for 562 yards on just 99 attempts (5.7 averaged), caught 34 passes for 285 yards (8.4 averaged) and scored a total of 16 affected. Turning with Gregory and Coffee in the end on defense, Wilson recorded 43 tackles and six tackles for a loss.
“It was our running game that also had good hands and could catch the ball out of the backfield,” said Harris. “As a defensive end he was very fast and used that speed.”
Coffee, a lanky 6-4, was also a two-way impact player for the Warriors. Playing one of the wide receiver positions in the wide open and pass-rich spread, he caught 19 passes for 264 yards (13.9 average) and two touchdowns. In the end, he wreaked havoc on offense as a goal scorer and pass thrower, finishing with 40 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and 10 ½ sacks.
“He was a good possession receiver who made several big catches for us,” said Harris. “He was also fast and physical [defensive] lineman.”
Gregory, who is also 6-4, played the same offensive and defensive positions as Coffee. Off, he matched his former high school teammate and future college teammate in receptions (19) with 5 extra yards (269) and a touchdown (three). As the third end of the defensive rotation, Gregory was also able to stop the run, making 40 tackles and 5½ tackles for loss. He added 2½ bags.
“Gregory knew the game and that [intelligence] allowed us to line him up in several different places on offense, ”said Harris.
Coffee and Gregory also share the same competitive motivation in academics.
“They are both planning to study engineering and Grove City is a perfect fit for them because it has an excellent [academic] reputation, ”added Harris.
McKeivier, a 5-10, 165-pound speedster who was one of the offensive receivers and started in free safety on defense, finished with 37 receptions for 404 yards (10.9 average) and three touchdowns. In defense, he was solid against the run, registering 74 tackles while adding two interceptions.
Football wasn’t McKeivier’s only high school sport. He was also a remarkable long jumper for the track team, which Geneva noticed.
“He was looking forward to playing football and running in college and I think Geneva will allow him to do that, so it’s a good choice,” said Harris. “As [a football player] for us he was a big play catcher and a good tackle. “
The West Branch recently sent several former football players into Division III college programs, led by offensive lineman Max Craig, who started offensive tackle for Mount Union in freshman last spring. Offensive lineman Clayton Adams (Ohio Wesleyan) and running back Thomas Caserta (Marietta) are two other Division III players.
“Playing Division III football is different,” said Harris. “You have to have a real love for the game because you don’t get scholarship money and you can’t play in front of large crowds. However, you still have the chance to compete with good competition, only on one level. higher. level. “