Leach To Lead Warriors In Strong Conference Race

By Dale Hubler, Times-Union Sports Editor

SYRACUSE – Entering his ninth year as the head coach of the Wawasee High School football team, Joe Rietveld had a solid staff of assistants on the sideline with him.

It doesn’t hurt either that Rietveld says having senior quarterback Joe Leach is like “having a coach on the field.”

“With Joe, we have a coach on the field,” said Rietveld, whose Warriors have posted an impressive 21-5 combined record the past two seasons. “He knows where everybody is supposed to be. We feel very comfortable with where we are offensively.”

Leach returns for his senior campaign and second year at the helm of Wawasee’s explosive offense after posting impressive numbers last season while leading the Warriors to an 8-3 record overall and a 5-2 mark in the always-tough Northern Lakes Conference.

Leach, who is also a standout on the basketball court, participated in track this past spring and will be a threat to run and throw the football.

As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 175 pounder completed 68 percent of his passes. He threw for 1,500-plus yards and 17 touchdows, all the while rushing for 650-plus yards.

With a year of experience under Leach’s belt, as well as a large number of other returing starters and letter winners, Wawasee could be staring down a promising season.

Rietveld is well aware of the possibile successes for his Warriors. He’s also aware of how tough the NLC could be from top to bottom and that there are no easy games.

“We want to be in position to win the conference,” said Rietveld. “If we do that, it means we either have a pretty good record or we won some key games. I think we’re a good enough team to win the conference. I also think the conference is tough and there’s some good teams in the conference that could finish .500.”

Concord and Plymouth, the only two teams to beat Wawasee last year, play in the same sectional as the Warriors.

En route to winning the sectional championship last season, Concord handed Wawasee a heartbreaking 28-26 loss in a sectional semifinal game.

Plymouth ran the table a year ago and won the NLC title with a 7-0 record.

NorthWood, though it posted a 3-6 mark in the regular season, won the Class 3A state championship and have experienced players returning.

Not to be forgotten about are Warsaw, Goshen, Northridge and Elkhart Memorial.

“You could make an argument for just about anybody in the conference,” said Rietveld, whose Warriors tied for the conference title two years ago and finished second last year. “You look at Plymouth, they ran the table last year and have some kids coming back. They have some impact players. Concord won the sectional. NorthWood won the state championship. Tradition says you can bet on them being good. They’ve got some good players coming back.”

Don’t count out the Warriors, they have good players coming back as well.

Offensively, Wawasee returns four linemen and should have a talented receiving corps with the likes of Andrew Mock, Nick Richardson and Brandon Geiger.

While 1,000-yard rusher Rob McKibben was lost to graduation, Rietveld said the Warriors will be deep at running back.

There may not be a go-to guy, rather a committee of running backs that could include Sam Bohnke, Lukas Winegarden, Tom Schwartz and Eric McKibben.

Returning leaders on defense include linebacker Lance Zimmerman, defensive backs Eric Brown and Tyson Kaase and end Ryan McDonald.

Rietveld said there also have been some offensive players move to defense, including 6-6, 320-pound senior lineman Travis Radford.

Freshman Stevie Phillips could make an impact at inside linebacker.

After practicing in 90-plus degree heat and getting through two-a-day practices, Rietveld said his team is eager to get the season started.

The Warriors open the season Friday when they host Whitko.

After a trip to non-conference opponent DeKalb, Wawasee will open NLC play Sept. 1 when Northridge travels to Warrior Field.

2006 Schedule (Home games in caps)

Aug. 18 WHITKO

Aug. 25 at DeKalb


Sept. 8 at Concord


Sept. 22 at Plymouth

Sept. 29 WARSAW

Oct. 6 at Elkhart Memorial

Oct. 13 GOSHEN

2006 Roster

No Name Grade Pos.

2 Rex Henry 10 QB

3 Dylan Ringler 10 QB/LB

4 Eric McKibben 9 RB/LB

5 Brandon Geiger 11 WR

7 Andrew Mock 12 WR

8 Tyler Trobaugh 12 WR/DB

9 Joe Leach 12 QB

10 Trent Brown 12 WR

11 Ryan McDonald 11 DB

12 Brandon Bohnke 12 LB

13 Barry Singrey 12 TE

15 Jake Sommers 9 QB

20 Mark Mallane 11 LB

21 Tyrus Denton 11 DB

23 Ling Zheng 12 DB

24 Eric Brown 11 WR/DB

25 Jesse McBride 10 WR/DB

26 Sam Bohnke 12 RB/DE

27 Craig Johnson 11 DB

28 Stevie Phillips 9 LB

31 Evan Melching 10 RB/LB

32 Chas Amadeo 11 WR

33 Bo Walbridge 10 WR

34 Chris Mayrs 9 TE

35 Tanner Benzinger 11 WR/DB

36 Glen McLaughlin 12 TE

38 Jordan Coquillard 10 DE

40 Lukas Winegarden 12 RB/DT

41 Justin Wegener 12 DE

42 Logan Davidson 10 WR/DB

43 Shelby Kelly 11 DE

44 Tom Schwartz 10 RB

48 Lance Lannen 10 RB

50 Mark Rainford 11 DE

51 Braxton Riley 11 G

53 Mike Wehmeyer 11 DE

56 Kyle Champoux 12 T

57 Chad Emery 10 T

60 Paul Xanders 11 DT

62 Alex Synder 10 T

63 Ian Garcia 10 165

64 Todd Jones 12 C

65 Justin McKee 12 T

66 Michael Atchison 11 G

68 Connor Beer 11 C

72 Dustin Boyer 10 DE

73 Ryan Main 10 T

74 Richard Lechlitner 12 G

76 Gene Dush 11 DT

78 Jacob Sexton 11 T

79 Travis Radford 12 T

80 Nolan Kennelly 10 WR

81 Brandon Boyer 11 LB

82 Brock Kaiser 11 LB

83 Travis Beer 11 TE

84 Clark Farrell 10 WR

87 Nick Richardson 12 WR/DB

88 Lance Zimmeran 12 TE/LB

89 Tyson Kaase 11 WR/DB

90 Justin Ousley 12 DE

93 Jon Miller 12 K

95 Chris Szynal 12 K

© 2006 Times-Union All rights reserved