Veterans Memorial Field was not kind to the Wasilla High School Warriors last season. The team went 0-4 at home, including a six-point loss in the Potato Bowl against Palmer High School. This season, though, head coach Kent Rilatos has a new squad and new expectations.
“The goal is to win our league championship. That’s what we play for,” Rilatos said. “But the other thing is to get these young men to become better young men across the board.”
Rilatos says he’s concerned with his players becoming exceptional on and off the field.
“That’s in the hallways. That’s in the classroom. That’s on the football field, all that,” he said.
In his fourth year as head coach, Rilatos is instilling a mentality at Wasilla that the team says is bringing them closer together.
“We’re just trying to get a good community going,” said senior running back Devin Otto. “We’re trying to get all the Pop Warner guys and all them to know that the program we’re running is all about family. We’re all like brothers here.”
Rilatos said that familial atmosphere provides a great opportunity for the young men he’s leading to work towards one positive goal.
And on the field, the Warriors hope to hit the ground running.
“We’re really working super, super hard on being a run-first, run-oriented team,” said running back Zack Garnett. “It’s kind of grind and grind and grind three or four yards … big pass play every once in a while, but it’s mostly smash-mouth up the middle.”
They’ll be relying on Otto, the only returning offensive starter from last season. Otto said he’s feeling the pressure but is used to it by now.
“Last year, I was a little bit nervous doing that,” said Otto of being the go-to player. “But I went out there and had a couple of good games. I think I had a good season, so I’m feeling a lot more confident about this year.”
The Warriors are hoping that confidence can translate into a league championship win and a trip to the tournament.