Western Dubuque’s 2019 varsity football team: front from left, Gabe Ulrich, Tommy DeSollar, Calvin Harris, Ben Bryant, Shane Beitzel, Payton Quagliano, Mark Simonsen, Cameron Kluesner, Kale Cartee and Dakota Lau; second row, Jackson Burger, Collin Hogan, Carter Kluesner, Caleb Nerney, Jake Hosch, Payton King, Will Burds, Caden Hickie, Kyle Schirmer and Sawyer Nauman; third row, Garrett Pitz, Will Conlan, Joe Loffa, Owen Hatcher, Jonathan Savolt, Ethan Blair, James Hauptil and Payson Hofstetter; fourth row, Tim Althaus, Emerson Lux-Morales, Tyler Weidenbacher, Ethan Recker, Cole Phillips, Nick Nelson, Peyton Deppe and Matt Fenton; fifth row, Logan Wiskus, Ryan Cook, Caleb Manemann, Ben Niklasen, Logan Brosius, Bryce Ploessl, Tanner Nauman and Dustin Wille; back row, assistant coaches Cory Davidson, John Ulrichs, Tyler Baethke and Bret Kilburg, head coach Justin Penner, assistant coaches Andrew Reinert, Mike Elgin and Ryan Hoerner. Not pictured, Max Feldmann.

There aren’t many programs in the entire state of Iowa more excited about the start of the high school football season than the Bobcats from Western Dubuque.

This team, along with their loyal and loud fan base, is ready to roll and have many reasons why their sights are set so high.

Leading this football team back onto the field every game will be 13 starters back from last year’s 10-3 team. Headliners include Calvin Harris, Ben Bryant and Jake Hosch who, hands down, make up the most dangerous backfield in Class 3A. At quarterback, Harris completed 173-of-257 passes for 2,280 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 494 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Bryant rolled up 749 yards and seven touchdowns before receiving a season-ending injury in the seventh game of the season. That’s when Hosch stepped in and rushed for 878 yards and 11 touchdowns. Add to that the bruising running style of junior Sawyer Nauman and this team has many different ways to hurt teams running the football.

Four returning starters (Tim Althaus, Will Conlan, Joe Loffa and Garrett Pitz) will anchor the offensive line, but Dustin Wille is the only experienced returnee on the defensive line. The linebacker core with Hosch and Carter Kluesner is strong while the defensive backfield of Bryce Ploessl, Collin Hogan and Wills Burds is stronger. Add Burds’ explosiveness in returning kicks (four touchdowns) and the Bobcats are a threat to do damage in every facet of the game.

“Our guys believe in what they are capable of,” said Justin Penner, head coach of the Bobcats. “I truly believe the best is yet to come. I want to see this football program become one that other people hate just because we’re in it every year. I think this year is no exception. I believe … no … I know that we have the ability to be that kind of football team.”