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WHS varsity football prepares to battle Paraclete at annual homecoming game

FACING OFF: WHS senior running back Ife Orekoya ‘24 battles against Thousand Oaks’ Silas Kemp as TOHS fights their way into the endzone. The game, on Sept. 1, ended in a TOHS defeat over WHS in a 27-3 win.
BATTLING TOWARDS THE ENDZONE: WHS wide receiver Mason Berlinger ’25 faces off against TOHS defensive back James Luderer.  Photo By: (Kalia Bell)

On Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., WHS varsity football will face off against Paraclete High School for the homecoming football game at the WHS stadium. 

“We do feel hopeful,” said varsity football coach Mark Serve. “[I] think Paraclete is a good team, but I also feel that we haven’t played to our best yet. I am excited for that to happen.”

Paraclete, a high school in Lancaster, CA, is ranked 62nd in CIF Southern Section, with a record of three wins and zero losses so far this season. They won their most recent game against Serrano High School with a high scoring offensive line, achieving 35 points against Serrano’s six. Given Paraclete’s thriving record and season history, WHS has relied heavily on game film as a resource. 

“[Film days] help big time for sure,” said varsity football captain Lawson Grace ‘25. “I’m able to recognize plays almost instantly on defense, and that’s all because of film. Watching constantly and analyzing the other team allows you to recognize plays faster.”

WHS’s most recent game resulted in a loss against Thousand Oaks High School, 27-3. Coming out of a difficult game, WHS is working to keep their morale high.

“I think we all took that loss hard,” said Serve. “It was a hard week, but [we’ve refocused] this week and tried to understand what we can do better. The kids are really excited to get back out on the field and get going.”

The mental trials of athletics can be one of the biggest challenges that players face. This year, the team captains have made it a priority to improve the team’s mental toughness and attitude when facing a difficult match–up. 

“It’s very tough,” said Grace. “It’s something not a whole lot of people can do, but as a captain, it’s something you really have to be able to do. You have to forget about the last week and use those emotions to help you push through [the next game]. We’re going to come out harder against Paraclete. We’re going to use those emotions.”

Keeping a team’s spirit high is a challenging feat, especially with the passing of football player Julius Poppinga ‘25 on Aug. 29. His memory serves as a source of inspiration for the players, pushing them to play hard together on the field. 

“Julius will always be here with us,” said Serve. “I want them to think about playing with Julius, not for Julius. I think that’s how he would have looked at it too.”

With the season still in its early stages, the team wants to put their best foot forward. In the upcoming weeks, WHS will face Notre Dame High School and Oaks Christian High School. Both teams have impressive rankings in the CIF–SS, but WHS is solely focused on preparing for their homecoming game against Paraclete this week. 

“[We’ve] really got to prepare for these games mentally,” said Grace. “As a team, we have to be hard on each other and really toughen each other up. We have to make sure one another is working hard.”

The pressure is at an all–time high for the players to deliver a stellar performance at the  homecoming game, and leadership within the team is critical for success. 

“We could definitely win this game,” said varsity football running back Ife Orekoya ‘24. “We’ve matured as players and people in general. [Players] have taken up leadership roles, and [my teammates] have improved as football players in general.”

Sept. 8 promises an intense game with high stakes for the Warriors, as they fight to deliver a win for their homecoming game. Paraclete carries equally as much determination, as they work to keep their undefeated streak.

“I feel good [about the game],” said Orekoya. “In this game, our full potential could be shown that [wasn’t] shown in other games. I personally don’t feel pressure because I know what our team can do. We just have to perform to the best of our ability.”

*The original version of the story had the game listed on Sept.9; however, the game will be held on Sept. 8

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About the Contributors
Kalia Bell, Sports Section Editor
Hi! My name is Kalia Bell and I am a staff writer for The Arrow. Besides writing, I love to play and watch sports. I love spending time with my friends and traveling with my family. I chose to be part of the staff because I’m able to express creativity in the newspaper and the stories I write. My favorite part of writing for the newspaper is putting together multiple sides and perspectives of a story and being able to share it with others. Working together with the staff to create a product we’re proud of has been a great experience that I’m happy to extend.
Sania Gali, Co-Web-Editor-In Chief,News Section Editor
My name is Sania Gali and I am the Co-Web-Editor in Chief and the News Section Editor for The Arrow. I love journalism because of the exciting stories we write at the Arrow as well as being able to inform the community on important issues. This is my second year on the staff and some of my hobbies are reading classical literature, watching the Office, and being outdoors with my dog Misty. 
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