Miles Bulldogs adopt new offense and defense in Wilhelm's second campaign
Despite returning numerous starters and its head coach, it will be a season of change this year for the Miles High School football team.
The Bulldogs are switching to a power spread offense, in addition to a new defensive scheme.
"I've got new offensive and defensive coordinators this year, so really we're kind of learning some new stuff again," said Miles head coach Jayson Wilhelm, who is entering his second season with the Bulldogs.
"I think what we're doing now fits us a lot better. We're going to be in something that's tailored to our kids' talent and ability. So far, through three weeks or so, they've picked it up really, really well and we're probably ahead of schedule of where I thought we might be, definitely on defense."
Toby Guy will be calling the shots on offense. Brannon Petillo is in charge of the defense and its move to a 4-2-5 formation.
"We're all learning quickly and we're getting the hang of it," senior lineman Christian Gutierrez said. "We're all asking questions, which is good for the team.
"People think it's not good to ask questions, but it actually helps. It makes everyone understand everything."
In Wilhelm's first season last fall, Miles finished 3-8 overall and 1-4 in District 14-2A Division II. The Bulldogs were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.
Miles welcomed back eight starters on offense and nine on defense.
"The kids' excitement level is extremely high right now," the Bulldogs coach said. "The new stuff and the new coaches has brought a new energy, and the kids are fired up about it and they're enjoying it.
"The excitement level is probably higher than anywhere I've experienced. We're optimistic and excited, knowing what we have down the road and what our chances for being successful are."
Wilhelm says one of the Bulldogs' strengths will be the offensive line that will be protecting sophomore quarterback Hayven Book.
"We've got four of five returning starters, and a couple of them are going to be third-year starters," said the Miles coach, who was previously the head coach at Menard and before that had a long stint at Eldorado. "We don't have extreme size there, but we're big and we're strong.
"Our 7on7 qualified for the state tournament, and we have a couple of guys who didn't play on the 7on7 who we can plug into this new system and make us a lot better right away as well. Our skill guys and our receiver-type guys are going to be excited knowing they're going to get the chance to get the ball."
Wilhelm says this season will be the first time that he's had a team that has had a solid two-deep at every position, which speaks volumes for the Bulldogs' depth.
"In years past, at a school our size, when somebody goes down and you start shuffling players, it makes things tough when you're asking kids to do something new in the middle of the season," he said.
The Bulldogs' trigger man in the spread offense will be Book, and Wilhelm is excited to see what his sophomore QB can accomplish after a season of experience last year — along with the trip to the state 7on7 tournament this summer.
"I think last year was a growing year for him, being a freshman and getting thrown in there and not expecting to get thrown in there, and he did a great job," Wilhelm said.
"So this year's going to be really great for him. The system we're going to play with and the style we're going to play tailors to his skill set. He throws a great football, and once we put a little more weight on him, he's going to be a tough dude."
The sophomore quarterback is ready to take his game up a notch or two.
"There's a lot of things to always improve on — throwing the ball, running and everything, honestly," Book said.
Fortunately for Book, he's got a bevy of weapons around him to make his job easier.
"Carson Ellison is probably our top receiver, at least returning receiver," Wilhelm said. "He's not a big kid, but he's very shifty and very smart about the game. Keagan Riddle is another one we'll have on the outside.
"We've got about (6-foot-1) on either end at wide receiver. Playing 7on7 this summer improved their ball skills immensely. We feel like if we get that matchup on the outside, we won't have a problem putting the ball up in the air and letting them go get it."
Another receiver, JoJo Castaneda, could also be a difference maker for Miles, Wilhelm said.
"I think he was new to football last year, but he'll probably be our biggest, strongest and fastest," Wilhelm said. "He has the total package. He's still learning a lot of stuff, and he's one of those that if he would have been part of that 7on7 team, we probably would have gone down there and won a few games."
The Bulldogs also have a lot of depth at running back, with Hayden Johnson, Dylan Garza, Tanner Wood and Devin Medina splitting time in the backfield.
"We're confident in all four of them. And in our scrimmage last week, there were times when all four of them had big gains for us," the Bulldogs coach said. "Maybe we can get a 1,000-yard rusher out of two or three of them."
Defensively, Wilhelm is pumped up about the talent and depth he has on the defensive line, giving him the luxury of continually substituting players in and out to keep them fresh.
"Man, it's one of those deals where we'll just roll them every series or every four or five plays," Wilhelm said. "I tell you, when that other group's coming on the field, it's hair on fire and they're waving their hands up and they're excited to get out there. And those other guys get off, knowing it's time for a break."
Some key performers on the D-line will be: Joel Garcia, Rylee Chapman, Toby Castaneda, Auden Torres and Gutierrez.
Miles will open the season on the road against Coleman on Aug. 27, followed by another road game at Coahoma.
Wilhelm says he'd be "tickled to death" if the Bulldogs could salvage a split in those first two games.
"Again, we may surprise and be 2-0, but if we're 0-2, we've got to stay the ship. Everything's OK," the Miles coach said. "That's a tall order, getting those two right off the bat, and they're both on the road.
"After that, I'm not going to say it gets any easier, but we get to come home and play some smaller schools. We'll have a chance to gain some confidence going into district for sure."
The rest of the nondistrict schedule includes contests against Roscoe, Munday and Cross Plains.
The district opener is set for Oct. 8 at home against Eldorado.
Texas Football magazine has picked Miles to finish fifth behind No. 12-ranked Christoval, No. 15 Eldorado, Rocksprings and Junction in one of the state's most competitive 2A districts. That would leave Miles and Menard out of the playoff mix.
"It'll be tough," Wilhelm said. "Eldorado and Christoval are still the two that everybody's shooting for. But Rocksprings, I'm telling you, don't overlook them. They did some good stuff last year, and they were in all their ballgames.
"Junction's got a new coach (Scott Freeman) and stuff, but everybody's going to be competing for a spot, that's for sure."
Just like last year, Wilhelm will be coaching against two of his former teams — Menard and Eldorado.
"It's nothing new to me," Miles' second-year coach said. "Once kickoff rolls around, it's just another ballgame. Afterwards, you get to shake their hands and talk to some people you haven't seen. But once the game gets here and stuff, I just treat it like another ballgame."
The Bulldogs want to give their fans their money's worth.
"I think everyone's real excited to see what we can do this year," Book said. "Last year didn't go too well, but I think this year everyone's really excited."
Gutierrez says the goal is to not only make it to the postseason again, but to advance deeper than the Bulldogs have in a long time.
"We're having fun out there," Gutierrez said. "Since two-a-days started, none of us have complained or anything. We're all enjoying it. We love our defense. I think it's going to be a good season for us Bulldogs.
"We want to make history here in Miles, especially the senior class. It gives us more of a reason to do it before we graduate."
District: 14-2A Division II
Head coach: Jayson Wilhelm (20-35; 3-8 at Miles)
Last year’s record: 3-8; 1-4 in district
Last district title/playoff appearance: 2018/2020
Stadium: Gary Krejci Memorial Stadium
Returning lettermen: 20
Returning off./def. starters: 8/9
Base offense: Power spread
Base defense: 4-2-5
Team strength: Experience, depth
Team weakness: Size
Players to watch
OL/DL Christian Gutierrez (6-0, 225), OL/DL Joel Garcia (6-1, 245), DE Eli Sanchez (6-1, 180), RB/DB Dylan Garza (5-8, 145), OL/LB Holton Wilson (6-8, 230), QB/DB Hayven Book (6-1, 150), RB/LB Tanner Wood (5-11, 170), WR/DB Keagan Riddle (6-1, 155), WR/DB Carson Ellison (5-7, 145)
Aug. 27 at Coleman
Sept. 3 at Coahoma
Sept. 10 Roscoe
Sept. 17 Munday
Sept. 24 at Cross Plains
Oct. 8 Eldorado*
Oct. 15 at Junction*
Oct. 22 Menard*
Oct. 29 Rocksprings*
Nov. 5 at Christoval*
Coleman L 0-32
Coahoma L 0-49
Roscoe W 29-7
Munday W 20-6
Cross Plains L 12-41
Eldorado L 6-35
Junction L 6-33
Menard W 57-20
Rocksprings L 18-62
Christoval L 6-56
Snook L 6-48