The Wauseon football team should once again be in the mix for a Northwest Ohio Athletic League title and playoff berth with the return of several important pieces from the 2021 squad.
That team finished 8-4 overall and 5-2 in the NWOAL. They won a playoff game, 41-7 at Wooster Triway, but were eliminated with a 53-20 loss at the hands of Van Wert.
This season, the Indians will look to make some noise with a bevy of skill position players back and speed all across the board, both offensively and defensively.
On offense, they should once again have a potent passing attack with their quarterback returning plus several of his targets.
“Obviously with our quarterback coming back and some good athletes out at wide receiver, hopefully we’re able to get some time to get the ball out to them and let them make some plays in space,” said head coach Shawn Moore.
Junior Elijah McLeod is back under center for the Indians. He was second team All-NWOAL and All-Northwest District at the quarterback position last season.
“I think he had a solid year throwing the ball,” said Moore of McLeod’s play in 2021. “We’ve talked to him about just being able to be a little bit quicker with his reads. Taking the easy throw. And obviously, not locking in to Jude (Armstrong) and Sam (Smith) all the time. We’ve got a lot of confidence in other guys as well. Just take what the defense gives us, is kind of what we want him to do. We’ve seen that in practice so far.”
Smith, a University of Toledo commit, was a second team all-league and all-district wide receiver last year, while Armstrong was honorable mention all-league. They will be the top two targets for McLeod, with Tyson Rodriguez and Ethan Borton being next in line for catches.
“We got, again, confidence in all those guys. Whoever’s open, get them the ball and let them make some plays for us,” explained Moore.
Additional returning letter winners on offense are linemen Chance Snow and Alden Leininger.
“Solidifying this offensive line,” said Moore on a potential concern he has offensively. “We are gonna replace basically all five of the spots this year. Getting them to gel (is key).”
Returning starters on the defensive side include defensive backs Armstrong (first team All-NWOAL/All-District/All-Ohio), Smith, and Borton; linebackers Logan Carroll (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district) and Zaidan Kessler (honorable mention all-league); and defensive linemen Snow (honorable mention all-league) and Justin Duncan (honorable mention all-league).
They also have Austin Kovar (LB), Xavier Martinez (DB), Elijah Felzer (DB), and Avery Coronado (LB) returning to help on defense.
“We like what we have defensively,” noted Moore. “All of our four receivers, they are all gonna play defensive back for us as well. And we’re gonna add in Elijah Felzer, a junior, who’s got some speed to be the fifth one out there. We like our linebackers — Carroll and Kovar.
“And then having Justin Duncan and Chance Snow back on the d-line, they’ve shown a lot of energy making some plays. We’ve got a couple of other younger guys that are kind of stepping up that we’re excited about too. I think we’ve got some speed back there, and hopefully we can fly around and make some tackles.”
Duncan is someone who has stood out to his head coach in the lead up to the season.
“He’s kind of a d-line specialist,” Moore said. “He has really done a nice job so far for us in practice. He had a good season last year, so hopefully he kind of elevates it (his game) and takes it to the next step in his senior year.”
Other returning letterwinners for Wauseon will be Ryan Friend (RB), Tate Wyse (WR), and Tony Vasquez (OL). And on special teams they return Rodriguez, their kicker and punter, plus Reece Nation and Zeph Siefker.
The Indians hope their returning players can help fill the void of players lost due to graduation.
Notable losses include Jonas Tester (first team all-league, all-district, honorable mention All-Ohio WR), Bryson Stump (second team all-league RB and honorable mention all-league LB, honorable mention all-district RB), Matthew Shaw (first team all-league/all-district, honorable mention All-Ohio DL), Tucker Dulaney (honorable mention all-league OL), Teren Garcia (honorable mention all-league DL), Kyle Moore (second team all-league/all-district OL) and Chase Santiago (second team all-league OL).
In terms of the NWOAL, Coach Moore hopes his team can take that next step this season. Wauseon has not won a league title in football since 2015.
“It’s gonna be a physical league. And so that’s kind of why we’ve tried to preach to our kids, ‘you got to be more physical’, that’s the thing that we’ve been talking to them about the most. To hopefully elevate us from being second and third in the league, to maybe getting a shot at being at the top of the podium this year. That’s what we’re looking for,” he said.
Wauseon welcomes Fairview to begin the season Friday night. In the league, they will open by hosting Liberty Center Friday, Sept. 9.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.