Wauseon football is built for success this season, they just need to find the right person under center to lead the team.
“We again have some good players on the outside, and we will be looking for someone who can manage our offense by making the correct reads and getting those guys the ball in space. We must also continue to play swarming defense, looking to not give up the bigs plays that set us back in our losses last season,” said head coach Shawn Moore, who enters his third full season in charge of the program.
According to Moore, the competition is between junior Zaidan Kessler and sophomore Elijah McLeod. But, they also could eventually decide to go a similar route as last season, moving Jonas Tester over from his receiver position like they did with Connar Penrod in 2020.
The Indians have 15 returning letter winners to offset the 10 departing.
A key piece back is Tester, who was a first team All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League receiver and second team All-NWOAL defensive back a season ago. Tester was also named second team All-Northwest District from his receiver position.
He caught 34 passes for 563 yards and three touchdowns, and accounted for 39 tackles defensively.
Jude Armstrong was a second team all-league receiver and second team all-district. He hauled in 35 passes for a total of 452 yards and 11 TDs.
Defensive lineman Matthew Shaw and end Teren Garcia were each second team all-league and honorable mention all-district for the Indians in 2020. Garcia registered 41 tackles, four sacks and nine tackles for loss, while Shaw had 21 tackles, a sack and three TFLs.
Also back are receiver Sam Smith, who was honorable mention all-league offense, plus Bryce Stump and Chance Snow, who were each honorable mention all-league defense.
Stump, a linebacker, racked up 45 tackles and Snow, who plays on the line, notched 15 tackles. Offensively, Smith had 17 receptions for 438 yards and six TDs.
Other returning letter winners for the Indians include Tucker Dulaney (OL/LB), Kyle Moore (OL/DL), Ethan Borton (WR/DB), Logan Carroll (RB/LB), Justin Duncan (OL/DL), Kessler (QB/LB), Jack Leatherman (WR/DB) and Tyson Rodriguez (WR/DB/K).
Along with McLeod, they will also be adding newcomers Chase Santiago (OL/DL), Austin Kovar (RB/LB), and Ian Martin (OL/DL).
“We will again have good leadership this year coming from a lot of guys that played significant roles on our team last year. We will also have lots of athleticism at the skill positions on both sides of the ball. We will continue to look to get those guys the ball in the open field and allow them to make some plays,” Coach Moore said on strengths of his team heading into the season.
Key departures from the 2020 squad were Isaac Wilson (NWOAL Co-Defensive Player of the Year, first team all-state/all-district), Jack Shema (first team all-league/all-district, honorable mention all-state), Tyson Britsch (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), and Connar Penrod (second team all-district, honorable mention all-league).
In addition, they lose Jaden Banister (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), Hunter Nofziger (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), Samuel Blanco (second team all-league specialist), Kolton DeGroff (honorable mention all-league), Cooper Lane (honorable mention all-league), and Andrew Figgins (honorable mention all-league).
“We will again have to fill some spots on the offensive and defensive lines, so it will be interesting to see how those positions develop throughout the summer and fall. We will also have to build up our depth across the board to allow some guys to get a break here and there,” said Moore on potential weaknesses of his group.
The Indians look to dethrone rival Archbold from the top of the league, as the Blue Streaks have claimed three of the last four NWOAL titles. Moore also sees Liberty Center being a threat for the title; the Tigers having tied Archbold for the top spot in 2019.
“The league will again be very competitive from top to bottom this year. I see returning champions Archbold and Liberty Center having strong teams again this year and should be the teams to beat, but every team will need to bring their “A” (game) each and every week,” he said.
Wauseon begins the season at Fairview on Friday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.