Whit Weeks and his older brother West were two of the defensive cornerstones of the Oconee County High School Warriors football team this season.
After their season ended last week in heartbreaking fashion, they spent some holiday time with their family and watched college football bowl games.
Whit, only a sophomore, says that the bowl games don’t affect his college decision because it’s too early for him. He’s already received offers from Virginia, where West is going to play, and South Carolina, both of which opted out of bowl games altogether this year.
“At first when you read that a school isn’t playing a bowl game, you think why not,” Whit Weeks said. “But then you realized that the guys, they haven't been home since June. They haven’t been able to go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.”
Like every Warrior, Whit felt that the state championship loss to Pierce County was an “awful experience.” Still, he remains positive about what they accomplished and what is yet to come.
“Our goal for the season was to win the state championship and we came up a little bit short,” Weeks said. “But looking at everything we did good in the season and then focus on that because we have a really good group coming back, and the seniors who have left the past two years, they left us in great shape. We know what we have to do to make it to the state championship. If we work hard this offseason, we can accomplish our goals for next year.”
Like last year, Whit and his brother will train with Ken Whitehead this offseason. Whitehead is a defensive backs coach at Athens Academy, and has been training Athens area football players since 2013 when he founded Phenom Speed and Agility Training.
Whitehead’s training works on footwork and speed, a reason why both Weeks brothers played offense and defense this year. Whit was originally the starting running back for the Warriors, but after West injured his hand early in the season, he said he was molded into more of a defensive player. Fellow sophomore C.J. Jones became the starting running back, and “he took off with the position,” according to Weeks.
Whit averaged 6.2 yards per carry this year on 39 carries and 241 yards, and Jones averaged 4.8 yards and had 801 yards on the season.
They could not have been successful without a strong offensive line, which will dearly miss Carsen Stocklinski next season when he goes to play for Richmond. One of the guys next to Stocklinski was Jaquette Lester, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior. Weeks said he’s excited to see the Lester duo play next year and hopes that freshman Marquise Lester can provide protection and holes for him.
“Marquise was a freshman this year, but he has great size,” Weeks said. “He's probably 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, and he actually played some this year. He played a little bit of defensive line and in certain offensive packages he would come out at the offensive line. I think next year he'll probably start on the offensive line and if he steps up that that'll be great for us.”
The Warriors have more holes to fill defensively.
They are losing starters like West Weeks, Justin Coleman, Elijah Hamm and Liam Lewis, among others.
“The hardest position for us to replace will probably be the middle linebackers,” Whit said. “Justin and West both had over a hundred tackles this year and they were really just the leaders of our defense this year. Me and Kyle Strickland started this year at the outside linebacker position, and we really will have to be the quarterbacks of the defense this year because we lost two safeties as well.”
Whit knows that it will be tough to match and exceed the Warriors past two seasons, but he believes head coach Travis Noland is the right man for the job.
“He’s an unbelievable coach,” Whit said. “I'd rather have a hard-nosed coach than a coach who's not tough on you because [Noland] pushes us every single day at practice to get better. I think that him being who he is really has helped us get to this level of football consistently because he makes sure that we're working hard every single practice.”
Whit plans to work out twice daily during the off season and is looking forward to the first game next season.
He said no amount of physical and mental preparation can get him in shape like playing football does, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to get stronger and faster.
“I think next year we're going to be a special team, just like the past two years have been,” Whit said. “We’ve just got to go to work this offseason and understand that we have something special going here. We need to get over that hump and win the state championship.”