WINDSOR -- Austin Robinson, a 2009 Neoga graduate, who has spent the last five season in some assistant coaching capacity at Teutopolis, is in his first year as a head coach at WSS (Windsor and Stewardson-Strasburg sports co-op).
Robinson replaces Cody McCollum, who coached for two seasons.
"Ever since I graduated I've been coaching in some for and getting to be a head coach is now is a fun and exciting challenge," said Robinson, who is employed with Total Grain Marketing. "I am very thankful of the opportunity to coach this team."
The Hatchets return four players from a 15-14 team that finished 4-4 in the National Trail Conference. The four are all seniors, Gavin Bennett, Chase Thies, Isaac Kramer and Christian Kessler.
There are a total of six seniors with Gage Settler and John Trussell being the others. Eight juniors are on the varsity along with one sophomore.
"Since the summer and the start of the season we have been focused on trying to learn the offense and defensive philosophies that I would like to do," said Robinson. "The players have responded really well."
WSS is currently 4-1 with the only loss coming in the championship game of the Cerro Gordo/Bement Thanksgiving Tournament to Clinton 56-38. The Hatchets have victories over Blue Ridge (46-40), Sangamon Valley (65-34), Cerro Gordo/Bement (45-42) and won its NTC opener 49-46 over Dieterich.
"I like that our guys have fought through some tough games," said Robinson, who has also coached at Sacred Heart Junior High in both basketball and baseball and coached the freshmen/sophomore for two years at Teutopolis as well. "We've been down by 12 points twice (against Blue Ridge and Dieterich) and fought back to win both games. Our defense has been solid so far. We definitely need to tighten things up on offense, but it is good to still have positive results while we are working though an offensive learning curve."
The Hatchets are averaging 48.6 points per game and allowing 43.6.
"Defense should be a strength," said Robinson. "We should also have a good post game. Kessler and Kramer have played very strong so far for us. Thies, Gavin Bennett and Adam Burton (junior) have helped keep opposing guards in check very well defensively."
Three players graduated from last year's team including second team all-NTC player Nic Hutchinson, who averaged a team-high 11.6 points per game. Thies and Kessler are the top two returning scorers as they averaged 9.9 and 8.9 points per game. Kramer was next at 7.6.
"We have a good mix of speed of quickness and height," said Robinson. "Thies, Gavin Bennett, Burton, Jackson Miller (junior) and Beau Bennett (junior) do a great job of pushing the ball for us when they are in the game. Kramer and Kessler along with Clay Tabbert (a 6-4 junior) provide us with size and strength inside and that allows us to mix things up pretty often."
Robinson was the freshman/sophomore coach at Teutopolis for three years under former Teutopolis coach Andy Fehrenbacher and and the last two has been the junior varsity coach and varsity assistant under Jason Hanson.
"I learned a lot from coach Hanson (Robinson played under Hanson all four years at Neoga) and also coach Fehrenbacher," said Robinson. "We want to to be physical team that gets after people and makes it difficult for them to score. We hope to run a fluid inside-out type of offense that will help us take advantage of our size with Kessler (6-2) and Kramer (6-3)."
Robinson helped Neoga win a Class 1A regional championship his senior year and beat Effingham St. Anthony for the first time in 16 years at St. Anthony. The Indians went 18-12 beating Stewardson-Strasburg 62-51 to win the regional title before falling to Red Hill in the Red Hill Sectional semifinals 51-45. Robinson was also part of the 22-9 Neoga baseball team that also won a regional title his senior year.
Former Arcola assistant Randy Swartz is the assistant coach.
Jan. 2 is to be a special day for Robinson as WSS plays at Neoga.
"Playing against Neoga will be a really cool moment for me and my family," said Robinson. "I have hundreds of great memories on and off the court at Neoga and it has and will always be home for me. But for our team it is a big conference road game that we will have to be ready to play well in for us to have a shot to win against a tough Neoga squad."