Whitney Keeling

Whitney Keeling led the Wildcats to an 11-2 record and a trip to the regional finals in 2020.

It’s safe to say the 2020 football season was a good one for the Waskom Wildcats who went 11-2 overall and advanced to just one game away from the District 3A-Division II state championship.

“I feel very fortunate,” Waskom athletic director and head football coach Whitney Keeling said. “We were able to accomplish a lot of our goals and we didn’t know if we would even be able to compete at the beginning. Ultimately, the first goal was to make the kids and coaches feel safe and be able to play. Obviously the way the season went was almost miraculous as we were fortunate enough to make it through the season without any COVID issues. I was disappointed we lost obviously because we had a chance to win but when you reflect back on the season, it was really an unbelievable year for us.”

Prior to and even during the season, questions were up in the air as to whether or not there would be a full football season due to the spread of COVID-19.

“There were a lot of unknowns, starting a freshman quarterback at the beginning of the season and losing him week seven, and then Markus (Gonazalez) having to step up, and then the unknowns of the whole team. The quarterback goes down and someone else has to come in and you wonder if they’re going to step up mentally and obviously they did. One of the greatest plays I’ve ever witnessed was the two-point conversion stop by Mikael Cooper against Daingerfield. That really leapfrogged us into the semifinals. There are a lot of plays that go into that but that’s one that stuck out to me because it was an unbelievable play by a really good football player for us.”

Keeling said he’s excited for the future of his team.

“We’re going to return four out our five offensive linemen,” he offered. “We’re going to return both quarterbacks. We’re going to return five running backs. We lost two receivers. We lost three defensive starters. So we’re going to return quite a few kids and we’re going to need some kids to step up and take their place in different spots but the future is definitely a lot brighter this offseason than it was last year just because of the unknowns. So we’re excited about it and we’re ready to get to work.”

The coach added he expects his players to step into larger roles.

“We’ve got quite a few juniors that will be seniors who we’re looking to take over some of that leadership who we’re expecting a lot of stuff from,” he said. “DJ Feaster is a two-year starter for us. Tesean Hamilton is a two-year starter even though he’s only a sophomore. Markus has been a three-year starter for us, two on the defensive side before he had to play quarterback. There are a lot of good leaders. Zeke Vasquez is a two-year starter on the offensive line and will be a three-year starter for us who will anchor the offensive line. Carter Watson plays both sides of the ball and does a lot of stuff for us. There are a lot of kids who we were looking for to become leaders that we feel like will be leaders.”

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