Now, the veteran coach hopes all those good things turn into a few more wins this fall for the Tigers.
Warsaw suffered through an inconsistent season in 2011, finishing at 4-6 for its second straight losing season. The Tigers started 0-3 a year ago, before winning three straight and then losing three of their final four contests.
“Our kids are bigger, stronger and faster this year,” said Jensen. “Our offseason program went well and the kids responded. Our chemistry is good and they are out there pushing each other every day. I’ve been very pleased with our leadership.
“The work ethic is the best we’ve ever had with this team. They are more confident too. I think our kids are tired of being one of the bottom teams in the NLC (the Tigers were 4-3 in league play last year) and are ready to make a change. My goal is for us to get better and be one of the top teams in the NLC. I’d like to think it’s possible.”
Jensen, who is entering his fifth season of his second stint at WCHS, feels it’s been a huge asset to be in the building and around his players all the time.
“It’s been good all the way to be around the kids every day,” said Jensen, who is the attendance coordinator at WCHS. “I think that’s been essential to the progress we’re making. This is the most fun I’ve had coaching in a long time. A lot of the credit for that goes to this group of kids.”
The Tigers look strong up front so far, according to Jensen (who also coached the Tigers from 1996-2003). Three starters return on the offensive line in seniors Cameron Shepherd (6-3, 220) and Jorge Carrillo (6-0, 255) and junior Stuart Wagner (5-11, 230).
“I’m really pleased with our offensive and defensive lines,” Jensen said. “We have good depth there and a lot of guys competing for spots.”
Junior Austin Head and sophomore Jake Mangas are competing for the starting quarterback spot, according to Jensen. Head was 26-75 passing for 535 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. Key returnees back at the skill positions include senior wide out Taylor Cone (13 catches for 291 yards, two touchdowns) and junior running backs Tristan McClone (101 yards) and Seth Fouts (81 yards).
Senior Zach Shepler returns to lead the 4-4 defense, where seven starters return for the Tigers. Shepler was second in tackles with 60 a year ago. Seniors Tanner Dickerhoff and Forde Ness are key at the linebacker spots for the Tigers, along with junior Gabe Furnivall, while seniors Justin Miller and Shay Hepler lead the secondary.
“I’m comfortable with our top 15-16 kids,” said Jensen. “It’s can we find numbers 17-25 or so. For me, I just hope it really matters every game. We need to go out and give everything we have for four quarters in every game we play.
“The key for us is to take care of the football and not turn it over this year. And we can not give up big plays, either on defense or special teams. We have to make teams earn everything. If we do those things, we can be competitive this year.”
Jensen enters his 13th season at WCHS with a 70-56 mark. He is 99-68 overall entering his 17th season as a head coach.
Warsaw opens its season at Columbia City Aug. 17.
2012 WCHS Football Schedule
Aug. 17: At Columbia City
Aug. 24: Homestead
Aug. 31: At Plymouth
Sept. 7: Elkhart Memorial
Sept. 14: At Northridge
Sept. 21: Goshen
Sept. 28: At Wawasee
Oct. 5: At NorthWood
Oct. 12: Concord