The start of the Bellevue West football season came a week earlier than normal. The T-Birds open with a week zero game versus Creighton Prep. Here are notes and observations from the T-Birds practice on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
Bellevue West has had a pretty good run of pass catchers in recent years. See 2021 with Micah Riley-Ducker and Kaden Helms. The 2022 T-Bird pass catchers certainly have talent. Junior Dae’vonn Hall will likely be the go-to receiver and favorite target in 2022. Hall was third on the team in 2021 with 43 catches and 592 yards. His nine receiving touchdowns was second on the team behind Helms 11 last season. Hall is the star with the power conference offers and attention, but there is a talented group around him. Senior Kyrell Jordan should significantly improve on his 27 catches and 476 yards receiving in 2021. Junior Isaiah McMorris transferred from Millard North and will provide depth, athleticism and another option to stretch the field. McMorris will also be an immediate impact player at one of the corner positions on the defensive side of the ball. One name to keep an eye on is junior Ben Goodwater. Goodwater (3 catches, 23 yards) is very much a breakout candidate in 2022 as a sure handed slot receiver in the high powered T-Bird offense. Two freshman Caprice Kieth and Araf Evans are players that will have opportunities to make a name for themselves early in their high school careers.
Clearly the leader of the offense in 2022 is junior quarterback Danny Kaelin. After splitting time as a sophomore Kaelin has physically and mentally matured in the last year. He looks more than capable and ready to lead the high powered T-Bird offense. He’s a coach on the field — Kaelin’s understanding of the offense and what every position group should be doing is impressive.
Defensively, the strongest unit looks to be linebacker. The reason: two returning starters at outside linebacker. Senior Alex Nichols was second on the team with 52 total tackles as a junior. Senior Caleb Jacobmeier is opposite Nichols and should have a bigger season in 2022 than he did in 2021. Senior Jdyn Bullion transferred from Omaha Central and will be a key contributor in the middle along with senior Nate Hudec.
The running back position has been a staple for Bellevue West for over a decade. LJ Richardson is now in Laramie at Wyoming after a 2,180 yard and 35 touchdown senior season. The unknown is who is going to get those carries and can the production Bellevue West is accustomed to seeing come from the position. An unknown name that will see significant playing time and have a shot to have a breakout season is junior Charlie Gewinner. Injuries have cut short his last two seasons. Gewinner has the speed and vision to make an immediate impact at the position. In his two seasons of varsity action Gewinner has appeared in four games and rushed for a total of 121 yards. Senior Gio Contreras is the leading returner at running back and backed up Richardson the last two seasons. Gewinner and Contreras are likely to split carries particularly early in the season until a lead back is identified.
The offensive line isn’t a total rebuild but there are some players that either haven’t played football in years or haven’t started in their careers. Senior David Waller started at center last season. In 2022, Waller will move to left guard. Waller is clearly the most experienced and leader of the unit. Right tackle looks to be Kellen Stuben. Stuben, a senior, was hampered with an injury in 2021. If he can remain healthy that will provide a big boost upfront. Junior Jacob Arop, yes, the starting center on the T-Bird basketball team, is out for football and will contribute immediately to the offensive line. It’s been years since Arop last played football. If he can get up to speed he could be an immediate impact player at left tackle. Senior Jackson Remmert will likely get every opportunity to start at center. Senior Fletcher Anders looks like he will be the starting right guard. Junior Matt Valek, sophomore Bryce Leuhring will provide versatility and depth if not start on the offensive line.
Defensive line is a bit of an unknown, not due to talent but lack of varsity experience. The total combined tackles in a Bellevue West uniform for the projected starters is two. The talent is there led by Fort Calhoun transfer Aden Morris at defensive end. Senior Ja’marion Campbell will play opposite Morris on the right side of the 3-4 defense. The nose tackle looks to be junior Chris Lawson. Senior Carson Ames is a name that will provide some depth on the defensive line.
Replacing Riley-Ducker and Helms at the tight end position isn’t going to be easy. Senior Cayden Echternach transferred from Omaha Burke and will be the top tight end in 2022. He likely won’t give the T-Birds the production of Riley-Ducker and Helms but he has the size (6-4, 245) and ball skills you like in a tight end. How quickly he can learn the T-Bird offense and make an impact is an unknown.