Prep football preseason countdown: #9 WAYNE GENERALS
Wayne bookended last season with games against Bishop Dwenger, both in losing efforts. Starting with the Saints again this year draws a lot of hype. This is the year that Wayne has to make a big move in the minds of many, building from zero wins when this senior class were freshmen to two wins and then to five last year and a spot in the sectional finals.
“We are very excited, but we are humble also,” Wayne coach Derrick Moore said. “I thought last year, going into the year, we didn’t exceed expectations. We kind of underachieved with what we thought. So coming into this year, we just want to stay humble, come out and play and try to play mistake-free football.”
A good deal of the interest and hype for Wayne comes in the form of Ohio State commit Craig Young, who can be a difference maker on both sides of the ball. Young’s athletic accomplishments are well documented on the football field, basketball court and track. Many teams will spend a fair share of time trying to stop him from deciding a game. But for Young, who was happy to make a college commitment and get it out of the way, his focus is on making a run in the postseason this year.
“Craig is a very humble kid, he is a funny kid and honestly he just wants to be like everybody else, which is almost impossible at this point,” Moore said. “But when the lights come on, he’s a performer. We look for big things for him this year.”
Last season was one of streaks: lose two, win three, lose four, win two, lose one. But for Wayne to break into the top tier of the Summit Athletic Conference, they will have to close out close games like last year’s eight-point loss to Bishop Luers or 10-point loss to Carroll.
“To develop mental toughness to go along with the athletic talent can be a challenge at times. We try to remember they are 17-, 16-year-old kids and they are going to make mistakes at times, but for us it is all about finishing games and being able to stay mentally tough when things go bad and not to get too high when things are going good,” Moore said.
They will get their first chance to make a splash Aug. 17 in that opener at Bishop Dwenger.
The offense of Wayne will start in the minds of many with Young, but will not end there by any stretch if you ask Moore and those around him.
In fact, in the Wayne camp a lot of their offensive efficiency will start with the run game that graduated Dalyn Hart. This season, it will be a trio of backs that will lead the Generals on the ground, starting with Devonair Kelsaw (84 rushes, 818 yards) and on to Keshaun Fields (119 yards) and Christian Thomas.
“Last year, I don’t feel like we ran the ball enough. We’ve got to be able to establish the run,” Moore said. “We do have a lot of weapons, we’ve got to figure out how to make those weapons productive and to put points on the board.”
Quarterback Brandan Young can also be a threat on the ground when needed, running for 282 yards and six touchdowns last season.
The run game will be bolstered by an offensive line that returns more quantity than it lost, although replacing All-SAC second-team lineman Lukas Fender (now at Saint Francis) will carry a heavy load. Look for a senior trio of Latrell Lapsley, Ja’shawn Wilson and Aaric Hoye to create holes for the triple-threat run game. Lapsley, a vocal leader, is the key returner to the offensive line, but Wilson started some as a junior and will anchor the line at center this season. Hoye, who Moore lists at 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, looked strong this summer.
“Coach Turner and Coach Underwood do a great job developing those guys. We have some young guys who are ready to go, ready to play. They are athletic, they can move,” Moore said of his line.
Young (100-of-201 passing for 1,407 yards, 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions) will return for his second year under center and Moore praises his growth heading into his senior year.
“I think he is being a lot more careful with the ball, not so much anxiety,” Moore said. “He is just more comfortable and has become more of a vocal leader, commanding respect. He is able to read the defense a lot better, gained 15 pounds of muscle so he’s throwing it a lot better.”
After such a productive junior season with 23 receptions for 432 yards, Aarik Adams will line up at receiver opposite Young (29 receptions for 367 yards), drawing away double teams Young faced last season. The plan to place Adams opposite of Young works out for the Generals after he was able to establish himself as an aerial threat last season.
For as high powered as external expectations are for Wayne’s offense, Moore believes that the defense will surprise some people.
“I am, by foundation, a defensive coach and I think it all starts with the defense. Our defense will be better than expected,” Moore said.
Things defensively will be anchored by defensive end Darius Alexander, who returns after producing 97 tackles (16 for loss) and five sacks as one of the area’s best defensive players regardless of position. Fields will also see some time with the defense after racking up 91 tackles and a pair of sacks last season and linebacker Tristan Pernell returns after logging 81 tackles a year ago, making the defensive core just as strong as the offensive returners.
Dre Walton, who had 66 tackles and three interceptions last season as an All-SAC cornerback, will move to safety.
Walton’s movement may help replace Young, who shined defensively at safety but is expected to move around more on defense this season to cause some different things to happen, Moore said.
Other key returnees for the Generals defense are senior linebacker Sean Weideman, senior lineman Cameron Johnson and junior defensive back Myheir Baker.
“We want to fall wherever the chips may lie, I’m not going to make predictions,” Moore said. “But if we execute and we don’t make mistakes and beat ourselves, we should finish in the upper echelon. We just want to take it day by day and do the best that we can do.”
ABOUT THE GENERALS
2017 record: 5-7
2017 storyline: Lost to Dwenger 40-21 in sectional championship; Have went from winless to two wins to five wins in Moore’s first three years.
Coach: Derrick Moore (7-25 in fourth year at school)
K/P Bailey Salary, K (23 of 37 PAT, 5 of 8 FG, 38.2 punts per game)
RB/LB Dalyn Hart, RB/LB (61 tackles; 65 rushes, 298 yards, 3 TDs)
OL/DL Lukas Fender, OL/DL (Second Team All-SAC)
Aamani Wright-Thompson, DE (63 tackles, 13 TFL, 5.5 sacks)
Calvin Mitchell, OL
Camry Greer, DB (26 tackles, 3 INTs)