By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT — Logan Stepp has always dreamed about leading a football program.
And since he was hired as Westfall head coach back in January, Stepp has been working to shape the foundation of the program at the school where his coaching mentor once blazed a path of glory on the gridiron.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do, to become a head coach and build a successful program that our community can be proud of both on-and-off the field,” Stepp said. “Since I started here, we’ve talk about building champions and that starts with our four core values to build our kids into quality young men with commitment, an ability to handle adversity, discipline and having relentless effort.”
Those values were instilled in Stepp, a 2014 graduate of West Jefferson High School and 2018 graduate of Otterbein University, by West Jeff head coach and Westfall alumnus Shawn Buescher. Stepp spent the last four seasons as an assistant for Buescher, coaching wide receivers at the small school power.
“Shawn is one of my biggest mentors and role models, not only as a football coach but as the type of person that I am,” said Stepp, 26. “Shawn helped me with the process of looking to become a head coach and I know he had a little bit of extra excitement for me when I was named head coach here at Westfall. He has fond memories from playing here at Westfall and said a lot of great things about Westfall.”
Stepp takes over what was once the flagship program of the Scioto Valley Conference with 17 conference championships and a state Final Four appearance in 2007. Since their last winning season in 2012, the Mustangs have gone through four head coaches and produced a record of 23-60, including a mark of 1-8 last season.
“Shawn talked to me about the tradition of Westfall football and how the community gets behind this school and our kids,” Stepp said. “Obviously, Westfall has fallen on some tough times over the last several years but that past is here and the community knows that we can be successful again.
“We’re trying to revamp some things, change the mindset and we want to build a program that is successful in the classroom, the community and on the football field.”
One of the first agenda items for Stepp was increasing the numbers in the program. The Mustangs had just 31 players on the high school roster last season and practiced with as few as 23 players. The Mustangs have nearly doubled that number of players to 57 as they prepare for Friday’s season-opener against Madison-Plains.
“I knew the numbers were low when I accepted the job and that’s something that we really had to work on,” Stepp said. “I sat down with literally every male student in grades 7-11 and talked with them during lunch for 15-20 minutes.
“I wanted them to see my commitment to them, how much I cared about them and how much I also cared about them playing other sports and being involved in other activities here at Westfall. I went to boys and girls basketball games, wrestling matches, baseball and softball games to get out in the community and show that I support Westfall being as strong as possible.”
Stepp discussed what the extra depth will mean for the Mustangs this fall.
“Having 57 dudes out allows us to have a whole scout team, to practice with ones against ones and twos against twos,” he said. “It will also allow us to substitute more on Friday nights and to keep our kids fresher.”
The Mustangs will continue to run the spread offense that the program first incorporated after its playoff loss to Bellaire to end the 2003 season.
“We’re going to be a spread team and probably be around 50-50 run-pass,” Stepp said. “We feel like we have seven-to-eight dudes we can rotate in on the offensive line and we like the ability of our skill kids to be able and move the football.”
Senior Caleb Cline and junior Bryce Wickline, last year’s starter, have been competing for playing time at quarterback.
“Those two guys are competitors who are very unselfish and do a great job of supporting each other,” Stepp said. “Caleb is a little more of a scrambling quarterback who has come back out to play football and Bryce likes to read things a little more to dictate what he is going to do. They are both learning a new system, so we know there will be a few growing pains along the way. We just want them to continue to learn and work hard.”
Junior Tanner Steele is expected to start at running back for the Mustangs on Friday night, as Stepp also looks to mix in AJ Shoults and Joey Wright.
“Tanner is one of those guys who can get you those five and six yards, Joey can make people miss and AJ is a mixture of both Tanner and Joey,” Stepp said. “All three are tough kids and bring something different that the defense has to look out for.”
Senior Casey Cline leads a receivers group that will also include Trent Walters, Michael Harwood, Jaden Towler and Brydan Gall.
“Casey is a great athlete to lead that group for us and we feel like we have a bunch of guys who are fast and elusive,” Stepp said. “As a group, their skills have been improving since we started our 7-on-7s over the summer.”
Senior Hunter Probasco anchors an offensive line that will also incorporate Austin Robinson, Aiden Lemaster, Jackson Thomas, Colton Hamilton and Seth Spriggs.
“Hunter is an elite level player who has led the way for that group,” Stepp said. “Our competition on the line has gone pretty well and those guys love each other, sometimes a little bit too much. It’s all about those guys continuing to work and gel together.
The Mustangs will play a 3-4 base defense that will look to create problems for the opposition.
“We want to bring a little pressure out of our base set and make things really simple for our kids,” Stepp said. “We don’t want to overcomplicate things. We want them to just react, get our hats to the football and make plays.”
The Mustangs will look to rotate Probasco, Hamilton, Lemaster, Spriggs, Robinson and Thomas on the defensive line.
At linebacker, the Mustangs aim to utilize Shoults, Tanner Scheel and Peyton Moll on the inside and Wickline, Towler, Wright, Trent Walters and Braden McCoy on the outside.
Caleb Cline, Gall and Michael Harwood will see time at corner, with Casey Cline, Blaec Bugher, Connor Geer and Wright slotting in for playing time at safety.
“We like our athleticism and depth across the defense,” Stepp said. “They came out of halftime and got us a big stop in our last scrimmage against Lakewood that helped set the tone for the second half. That’s a unit that continues to work to gel and play together.”
Walters and Wickline can handle punting duties and Walters will be the place-kicker on Friday night when the Mustangs welcome Madison-Plains to western Pickaway County.
Stepp has been pleased with the preseason the Mustangs have turned in and is looking forward to seeing a big crowd come out to see a new-look team against the Golden Eagles.
“We told the kids that we were going to hold them to a high standard and that’s something that they wanted and have accepted. We are on a journey to be elite, starting with our work ethic,” Stepp said. “It started in the offseason, then the kids went through four days of weightlifting in June, our camp days in July and has continued into our preseason and scrimmages.
“Coming in, I thought it might be a little challenging to get the buy-in from the kids, but they’ve accepted the coaching style of our staff because we want to make them better and have them reap the benefits. It’s going to be exciting running out on the field on Friday night, to have the stadium packed and get to hit someone else.”