Home Turf: 560 Gorsuch Road, Westminster
2011 Record: 6-4 overall; 4-3 county
The Falcons were oh-so-close in 2011. Despite having the county's youngest squad a year ago, Winters Mill fell just one win short of a Class 2A West Region playoff berth.
The upstart Falcons surprised a lot of observers with early-season wins over two Frederick County teams in Oakdale and Frederick, but a late-season loss to Liberty sunk Winters Mill's playoff hopes.
Still, Winters Mill's 6-4 finish signified the Falcons' third straight .500 or better record, and coach Ken Johnson's team should do much better this year.
"I like the mood of this team right now," Johnson said. "They were disappointed that they didn't win another game or two and missed the playoffs, but that's setting them up to have a positive frame of mind heading into this year. We have a lot of good skill players coming back. We'll be a run-dominated team, and most of our new players will be on the line."
The offense starts with the county's top returning ground gainers, senior running backs Kyle Shimek and Chase Cullison. Both were among the top five in rushing, averaging well over six yards per carry for one of the county's most prolific running games. Shimek gained 756 yards, while Cullison picked up 633 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
Two-way standout Teddy Chase and senior C.J. Acha will also be in the backfield mix, with senior Sebastian Cuenca, the team's kicking specialist, lining up in the slot.
The quarterback will be either senior Wes Cook, who played defensive back last fall before moving under center this year, or junior returnee Cole Myers. On the offensive line, the Falcons welcome back starters Wes Bitzel and Brandon Braun, as well as varsity returnees Alex DeAngelis and Matt Hoppe.
"We have a lot of offensive players who have already produced at the varsity level," Johnson pointed out. "That's what we have with Kyle Shimek, Chase Cullison, and Teddy Chase. And Wes Cook has outstanding leadership skills. We'll go with a one-back offense, but continue to utilize the slots a lot as running backs."
Cullison was also a force for the Falcon defense, finishing sixth in the county with 84 tackles on a unit that surrendered just 17 points per game last fall. The senior will join with fellow linebacker Jake Utz, who was second on the county's tackles chart a year ago.
"Our leading tacklers are back, and hopefully that will play out well for us," Johnson said. "Jake and Chase will be key, and we also have Nick Witt (77 tackles), who is one of the fastest kids on the team even though he plays the defensive line."
The linebacker spots will be manned by experienced veterans in Cullison, Utz, Mike Sanders and Ryan Berry. The secondary also has plenty of quality athletes, with Chase, Cook, Acha, and Jake Harple returning.
The Falcons open against the same Frederick County trio that they went 2-1 against last year, then face county foes South Carroll and Century in a pair of games that could determine who will represent the county in the Class 2A West Region playoffs.