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As practice opens, West De Pere working to get back to title game

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High school football practice kicked off Tuesday and West De Pere is hoping to return to the state title game. (WLUK)

DE PERE (WLUK) -- West De Pere enters this football season as a team to watch across the state.

However, as the Phantoms participated in their first practice Tuesday they know it takes more than just talent to succeed.

"There's no doubt we have some skilled football players but the importance of the team aspect of things just can't be overstated," coach Jack Batten said. "I've been around where you've had really good athletes and not had good football teams so I worry a little bit about us thinking because we have good football players we're going to be a good football team.

"That isn't always necessarily the case. We're working like dogs to become a group, a team."

Leading the the way this season will be junior quarterback Josh Blount, who's entering his third season as a starter. As a sophomore last season, Blount ran for 1,498 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He also threw for 956 yards and 10 TDs.

He was a big reason the Phantoms won their first 13 games of the season before falling to Catholic Memorial 37-24 in the Division 3 state title game after leading 24-0 early in the third quarter.

Blount is focused on returning to the state title game.

"You're in the weight room all offseason thinking about we got to be the best," the Illinois State baseball recruit said. "Have to be the best we can be, have to be the best team in the state. Obviously, that's the end goal, to get there."

And to have a different result. West De Pere was dominating Memorial before the game flipped. It was tough ending to what was really a great season.

"I don't think that's ever disappeared," Batten said of the memory of losing in the state title game. "You learn from it, you get better. I think I'll be 75 years old and at some point in the back of my mind you'll be replaying that game."

"It sticks with you like you said for a long time," Blount said. "You're always going to remember it, you're always going to go back and remember the game. But the more important thing is to get better from it.

"It hangs with us, but it's definitely fuel, a little extra drive to get out here, work harder and hopefully get to that same game again."

And the Phantoms' journey to another state title game began Tuesday.

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2019 SCHEDULE

Aug 23: at Shawano

Aug 30: New London

Sept 6: at Green Bay West

Sept 13: at Green Bay East

Sept 20: at Xavier

Sept 27: Menasha

Oct 4: Seymour

Oct 11: at Wrightstown

Oct 18: Waupaca

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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