by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview junior quarterback Austin Brisbee emerged as a threat from the pocket as well as running the ball for the Wildcats this season.

No high school football team ever wants its season to be over.

Yet, when the Westview football team met on its half of the field following its 54-7 first round playoff loss to Grants Pass and took a moment to reflect on an unexpected turnaround season, the revelation of the Metro League was positive.

No squad experienced such a 180 or reversal of fortunes as the young Wildcats did this year. Picked to finish dead last in the Metro League, having not won a league contest in three years, Westview took fourth and triumphed in three conference bouts.

The Wildcats completely bought into each other and what they were trying to do as a program this year and didn’t want to take off their jerseys for the last time in Grants Pass.

“That was a pretty special place to be,” said Fisher. “You wouldn’t think so after getting throttled, but those players didn’t want to leave the field. They weren’t ready for it to be over. Any time you’re a part of that type of experience, you never forget it. As a coach, it kind of fired me up again in believing in what we do and why we do it.”

Anticipating a Tigard-Westview shootout in the second round, not many onlookers thought the Wildcats would get kicked to the curb so quickly. As tough as the Metro League is, nothing can really simulate the atmosphere of playing in a win-or-you’re-out contest in a hostile Southern Oregon town, where a high school football game is the biggest event of the weekend.

Fisher said Westview’s lack of success and experience in previous years — despite great triumphs during the regular season— hurt the Wildcats when they traveled down to Grants Pass to take on the Cavemen in the first round of the 6A playoffs. Playing in what’s deemed one of the best high school football venues in the state, in a small town that wildly supports Grants Pass on weekly basis, the Wildcats were jumped early fell behind 17-0 and never recovered.

Westview cut the deficit to 17-7 in the second quarter, but Grants Pass answered with a touchdown just before halftime that seemed to dispirit the young Wildcats coming out of the locker room.

“From that point on, you could just see this glazed look in our kids’ eyes,” said Fisher. “It’s almost like they didn’t know what hit them and really didn’t know how to respond to it. A lot of credit goes to Grants Pass. They played tough, they played hard and put their foot on the gas pedal. For whatever reason that night, we didn’t have an answer.”

The hope, Fisher said, is quarterback Austin Brisbee, and tight ends Tegan Lind, and Ian Meyers take away the good, bad, and the ugly from that Cavemen disaster and employ it next season when Westview wants to be playing deep into the 6A bracket.

“It’s a learning experience,” said Fisher. “The bottom line is, if you’re going to have success in the playoffs, you have to have the ability to respond, and respond on the road. We have to be able to answer in those situations and make big plays. I know those kids will learn from that lesson and take it into next year with them.”

With all-league returners like Brisbee, Meyers, Lind, offensive lineman Ryan Giobetti, and starters such as Trevor Bovero, Noah Spencer and Henry Sundin coming back next year, Westview has a first-class core to work with and strive toward a Metro League championship.

“For me, I’ve always had this expectation,” said Fisher. “We’ve had success at this school, and I expect success. This group going into next year legitimately has their sights set on a league championship, and going deep into the playoffs. Now, it’s just a matter of working for it in the offseason and keeping their eye on the ball.”

Before the season, Westview’s senior class created a slogan called “Build a New Tradition”, which meant getting back to believing in themselves and what they could do on the football field.

Seniors like Hank Kamakaala, Jacob Sturtevant and Mitch Kekel set the benchmark of what’s possible for a loaded junior class that’ll come back with a year of understanding and know-how next season. While Westview relied on its juniors for production, the Wildcats’ leadership came from the senior class.

“This year was a total effort,” said Fisher. “It was the effort of the coaching staff, the senior class and players coming together and truly embracing belief again. That, we’re capable, we can do it and getting behind one another and supporting one another.”

Preseason goals as simple as winning more games, were getting over the .500 mark checked off the list by midseason as Westview won three of its first four games.

The Wildcats were within a touchdown of Jesuit at halftime of their Metro League opener before Crusader running back Joey Alfieri got loose in the second half of a 50-17 defeat. However, Westview bounced back nicely by beating down Beaverton at home, and pulling out a thrilling 42-41 road win over Southridge that guaranteed the Wildcats’ return to the postseason.

It’s no coincidence that as Brisbee — who was recently named one of the Metro League’s players of the year —began to emerge as a catalyst at quarterback, the Wildcats started to take off as a team. Fisher said he and the coaching staff knew Brisbee was going to be special after the righty obliterated the junior varsity level.

“He understood the offense, made the right reads and delivered the ball when it needed to be delivered,” said Fisher.

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