Westville senior defensive end Chris Hathaway (30), shown here avoiding the block of Matt Vallangeon, will be counted on to provide a solid pass rush in Saturday’s Class 2A playoff game against Casey-Westfield.

Before his junior season, Westville senior Chris Hathaway wasn’t sure if he was even going to play for the Tigers.

Things had not really gone well for him, but he got a chance to play his favorite position, defensive end, during his junior year and everything took off for him.

Hathaway has been a starter at both defensive end and tight end the past two seasons.

“I’ve improved a lot. Because from my sophomore into my junior year, I wasn’t sure that I was going to play,’’ Hathaway said. “I got a chance to start and it has gotten better each and every week.

“I love the defensive end spot. Playing on defense is my first love. I like the contact and the hitting.’’

According to Westville coach Guy Goodlove that was one of the areas that Hathaway needed to make improvement.

“I remember his sophomore year and our first JV game was against Iroquois West, and he didn’t want to hit. He was timid out there, arm-tackling and shying away from contact,’’ Goodlove said. “We addressed that the following week at practice, we told the team, including Chris, that we were going to start hitting.

“You are eventually going to fight back. You are either the hammer or the nail. Do you want to get beat on and pounded on? Or do you want to fight back and pound on other people?’’

Hathaway admits that he wears No. 99 in honor of Jason Taylor, the former Miami Dolphins defensive end, who now plays for the Washington Redskins.

“I played defensive end a little in youth football, but I didn’t play there in high school until my junior year when coach (Shawn) Skinner moved me there,’’ Hathaway said. “I just like to put pressure on the quarterback, stringing the play out so that the linebackers take care of it.

“But the sack is one of the biggest plays in the game, it’s a momentum changer. So, I like hitting and getting a shot on the quarterback.’’

According to senior teammate Alex McMahon, the Tigers will need Hathaway to put a lot of pressure on the Casey-Westfield quarterback this Saturday in the Class 2A second-round playoff contest.

“He is a really good defensive end and he is really good at pressuring the quarterback,’’ McMahon said. “That is what we are going to need to do this game against Casey.’’

McMahon said that Hathaway has really picked up his game this year and he has become of the key team leaders.

“He has taken on all challenges that has come his way and he has become an excellent player for us,’’ McMahon said. “He has also been clutch for us at tight end, making big plays when we have needed them.

“Chris simply does it the right way.’’

According to Goodlove, the principal at Westville, that doesn’t just apply to the football field.

“He is involved in the total school program,’’ Goodlove said. “He is a teacher’s aide, he is in the choir, he is an honor roll student and he is a three-sport athlete.

“He is a kid that has made our school a better place. He is a good kid to have around.’’

Hathaway admits that he has really enjoyed his time in high school.

“I like the people, the atmosphere and the teachers, we have at Westville,’’ he said.

So does anyone give you a hard time about being in the chorus?

“No, because we have had other players in the choir as well,’’ Hathaway said. “I started off doing it to get out of class. And when I was younger, I always sang in my church choir.’’

Coach Skinner says that Hathaway has a “spectacular singing voice.’’

Being part of a successful group is one of the key attributes for Hathaway.

“He is part of a strong foundation that we have with that senior class,’’ Goodlove said. “He is a very good defensive end and tight end for us. We have to have him on the field to be successful.

“He is intelligent. He is coachable. He listens, and he can make adjustments on his own. He is like having another coach on the field.’’

Hathaway, who has tentatively planned on going into the army after high school, hopes that his prep football playing career continues after Saturday.

The Westville Tigers (8-2) travel to Casey on Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest with the 10-0 Warriors.

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