2021 Wellington football preview: Breaking down the Crusaders' 8 football games
The Crusaders believe they have the ability to make their 2021 season into a special one, which features a winning record and extending their season past the play-in game for the playoffs.
"Our success will be determined by how fast we can learn the system, especially up front," said Wellington head coach Zane Aguilar. "We must be able to lean on the senior class and their experience.'
The key players returning include three All-District selections: senior offensive lineman Hagen Wright, senior running back Dustyn Schettler, and junior defensive back Mehki Haskin-Ybarra. Many other returning players include Montel Tate, Cope Henry, RJ Clift, Dalton Bishop, Jakob Lira, Jace Barton and Try Greenlee.
Wellington expects potential starters Malachi Rogers, Jack Wright, Derrick Low and Dominic Ybarra to be impactful players for the Crusaders.
After a disappointing 2020 season, the Crusaders are eager to bounce back and play their first game on Sept. 3 against Clearwater.
Here is a breakdown of Wellington's schedule for the 2021-22 season.
Sept. 3rd vs Clearwater, 7 p.m.
Last season: Clearwater 36, Wellington 29 (OT)
Last year's game against Clearwater was a thriller. Wellington trailed 23-14 heading into the fourth quarter and managed to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Crusaders couldn't secure the comeback.
Clearwater finished in third place in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Divison at 7-3, but has lost a few key players due to graduation. Indians star quarterback Tanner Cash led the way for Clearwater and will be playing for Hutchinson Community College.
The Indians have four seniors listed on their roster this season. This could be a year Clearwater will look to develop the underclassmen, meaning the Crusaders should be able to capitalize on their experience to start the season 1-0.
Sept. 10th @ Collegiate 7 p.m.
Last season: Collegiate 56, Wellington 3
Collegiate is coming off an incredible 10-2 season. Their only two losses came against Andale — one in the regular season and the other in the semi-finals of the playoffs. Besides Andale, the Spartans dominated everyone they played, including Wellington.
The Spartans are full of talent that includes junior quarterback Wesley Fair, who's been getting recruited by Iowa State and Kansas State, senior linebacker Drew Charbonneau, and senior kicker Jack Duarte.
Collegiate is expected to have another big season, which means Wellington has their work cut out for them in Week 2.
Sept. 17th @ Andale 7 p.m.
Last season: Andale 63, Wellington 7
Unfortunately, things aren't going to get easier for the Crusaders. After taking on the Spartans, Wellington will have their hands full with state champion Andale. The Indians are coming off an undefeated season where they scored 615 points and allowed 78.
In the Indians' playoff run, they gave up seven points, which came in the first round. Even though Andale's state championship team was filled with many seniors, they are expecting to make another run for the state title.
This is going to be a test for Wellington as they'll face one of the best teams in the state of Kansas.
Sept. 24th vs Labette County 7 p.m.
Last season: Wellington 41, Labette County 12
The Crusaders bounced back from a blowout loss to their largest margin of victory in a game against the Grizzlies. Wellington had a 34-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter before Labette County scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.
The majority of the players on the Labette County team were underclassmen, and it looks like that will be the case again this year. The Grizzlies will have only four seniors and seven juniors, then the other 22 players being sophomores and freshmen.
The first non-district game for the Crusaders should get them back in the win column after facing two of the better teams in the state.
Oct. 1st vs Rose Hill 7 p.m.
Last season: Rose Hill 28, Wellington 20
Rose Hill was one of the better teams in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division, but Wellington held their own against the Rockets. However, Rose Hill will be without their star players from the year before, Spencer Nolan and Noah Bolticoff, who both graduated.
The Rockets are looking to fill the holes in their roster spots, while Wellington looks to avenge their loss. This could be a game where Wellington can establish a winning streak and start to get things rolling on their season.
Oct. 8th @ El Dorado 7 p.m.
Last season: Did not play
The last time Wellington played against El Dorado was in 2017 when the Wildcats were a part of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division IV District. The Crusaders won the last meeting 21-0.
Now, in 2021, the Wildcats are a part of the Division III District and hopeful for their first winning season in almost 20 years. El Dorado is coming off a 5-3 season with a quality win over Augusta, a playoff win, and close losses to Wamego and Independence. The Wildcats were also able to outscore their opponents 219-141.
El Dorado is a better team compared to previous years, but they open up their season with tough games before they play Wellington. They have three of the top-10 most interesting high school games in Butler County.
As of now, the expectation is that Wellington and El Dorado should be entertaining. However, if the Wildcats lose their big games to start the season, Wellington could throw a wrench into El Dorado's season.
Oct. 15th @ Buhler 7 p.m.
Last season: Wellington 27, Buhler 13
In the last non-district game of Wellington's season, it will be a battle between the Crusaders. Last season, Wellington was able to steal a game from Buhler as they finished the regular season with a 5-3 record and wins over Augusta, El Dorado, and Rose Hill in the first round of the playoffs.
However, even though Wellington defeated Buhler, they shouldn't be taken lightly. Buhler will be stacked on talent and will be battling for the top spot in the Division III District.
Nonetheless, Wellington and Buhler should provide another entertaining game that could have playoff implications for both teams.
Oct. 22nd vs Mulvane 7 p.m.
Last season: Wellington 20, Mulvane 13
This is one of those games where Wellington played down to their opponent's level. The Wildcats finished 1-8 and took them until Week 3 to score their first points of the season.
Even though it wasn't a pretty game, the Crusaders would come away with the win.
The Wildcats are expected to have another rough season, so the Crusaders should end their season with a win against their district rival.
Oct. 29th TBD 7 p.m. (4A Playoffs)
Last season: Arkansas City 27, Wellington 6
Wellington got a tough draw when they played Arkansas City in the play-in game for the playoffs. After the Bulldogs defeated the Crusaders, Arkansas City was able to win three playoff games before they lost to St. James Academy.
This year, the Crusaders hope to piece everything together and have a successful season.