Over the past three seasons the Wauseon football program has accrued 30 wins to just five losses, winning NWOAL titles in each of the past two seasons.
And although the Indians lose some key players off last year’s team that finished 9-2 and shared the league crown with Swanton, they should be a factor in the league race once again.
Much like the previous two seasons, Wauseon will be counting on a first-year starting quarterback to lead the offense. But, Brendan Wilson isn’t just any other replacement, he is a senior who was second team All-NWOAL and second team all-district in 2015. He also saw some action at QB late in the season when starter JJ Kauffman was dealing with a shoulder injury.
“He has come a long, long way,” said head coach Travis Cooper of Wilson. “We are continuing the trend of (having) a senior first-year quarterback. And I know it’s not sometimes ideal, but, being an 18-year-old kid that’s been battle tested, there is a lot to be said for that.”
The Indians’ offense in general has been stellar in recent memory, and that side of the ball looks to be stacked with playmakers yet again.
“I actually think that our backfield this year is probably the best collective group that we’ve had,” said Cooper. “And that is saying a lot when you have Ty Suntkens and Axel Bueters coming through.
“We are gonna have Everett Bueter who is gonna be a junior. And we’ve got another junior in Junior Martinez. He is pound for pound our strongest kid on the team and he is a sprinter.”
Then there is Wilson, whose primary touches came out of the backfield last season.
“We’ve always had kind of a mix, a speed guy and kind of a physical guy,” said Cooper. “Well now we’ve got some pretty good athleticism. And I think Brendan Wilson is every bit as good a runner as any of the guys we’ve had so far.”
Other notable returnees for the Indians are Jacob Raabe (first team All-NWOAL, second team all-district), Hunter Yackee (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Chase Reynolds (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Owen Newlove and Dawson Rupp.
The defensive side of the ball has also flourished under Cooper. However, while that could be the case this season, it remains to be seen.
“One thing this year is, I think we are a little bit undersized,” said Cooper of the defense. “This is probably the smallest team that we’ve had.
“So we are going to have to be fast and we are going to have to use that athleticism. Because I think if teams get their hands on us, we can be in trouble. We’ve got to be quick and we (have) to play sideline to sideline.”
Raabe, who missed the end of last season with an injury, is back to anchor the defense.
“He is a Division I type player,” said Cooper. “A skilled athletic big man. So it all starts with him up front.”
Leading the second level of the defense is junior Hunter Yackee.
“At linebacker we have a returner in Hunter Yackee who was a state wrestler last year,” said Cooper. “A phenomenal athlete. Not the biggest kid, but he is probably the toughest kid on our team.”
On the other hand, the Indians do have to replace some key contributors who have departed.
Gone are Kauffman who was honorable mention all-league; Jac Flory who was NWOAL Player of the Year, All-District Player of the Year and first team All-Ohio; Josh Whitcomb who was first team all-league, first team all-district and first team All-Ohio; Tyler Wilson who made first team all-league, first team all-district and first team All-Ohio; Danny Hench who was first team all-league, first team all-district and special mention All-Ohio, Ty Leininger who was first team all-league and second team all-district; and Mason Creager who was second team all-league and second team all-district.
The NWOAL should be a competitive race this season and Cooper expects last year’s co-league champs, Swanton, and Liberty Center to battle the Indians for the top spot.
The season opens Friday as Wauseon plays host to Fairview.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010
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