WAYNE – Nine months ago the season came to an end for the Wayne High football team in the Class C1 semifinals and this year the Blue Devils will look to take that next step.
During the first NSAA practice of the season on August 10, the Blue Devil football team held a walk thru in the elementary gym with masks on.
Coach Russ Plager is entering his fourth year leading Wayne High football. Coach Plager said this is the most veteran group he has had.
“A lot of these kids have played football,” said Plager. “Probably have the biggest best combination of returning starters and lettermen and people who have just been on the field. Whether it be offense, defense, special teams. That just allows us to be maybe a little further ahead at this point in the year.”
With Dave Wragge moving to the athletic director/junior high principal position, Jacob Daum will join the program. Other assistants will be the same as last year being Brendan Dorcey, Tyler Prauner, Traceten Halley, Reid Fuerhoff, Brent Pick, Scott Sievers and Sam Blake.
The team does temperature checks, hand sanitizer breaks, players bring their own water bottles and coaches wear masks when unable to be socially distanced. Coach Plager added the team is limiting the amounts of kids in the locker room to keep them safe.
“Kids are taking cloth items home and keeping hard items only in their lockers,” Plager added. “Like I said I did the scanning process but now with them being in school they’ll go through a scanning process in the gym with Mr. Wragge (Athletic Director) and Tim Ellis (Trainer).”
Wayne High also held a two-week camp in July and followed the same protocols then.
The Blue Devils are coming off a 9-3 season which ended with a 21-7 loss to last year’s champion Wahoo. The other losses came to Wahoo (47-0) on August 30 and Pierce (42-0) on September 27.
WHS will field about the same numbers in years past of low-to-mid 40s.
“I think this group enjoys physical contact,” Plager mentioned. “It’s a tough-minded group. I do not have any worries about us backing away from a physical football team that we play. They’re going to stick their nose in there.”
Wayne High will open with back-to-back road games in 2020 at Logan View/Scribner-Snyder on August 28 and at West Point-Beemer on September 5.
Coach Plager also said the team will open with an experienced Raiders team.
“They return I believe nine starters on one side of the ball and 10 starters on the other side of the ball,” said Plager. “All these kids have been playing since sophomores. So, I’m very familiar with their kids. They’re going to be ready to go for the first game. I think we can control what we control though at the same time we have to take care of our business and run our base offense and base defense.”
WHS will then entertain Columbus Lakeview on September 11 followed by last year’s quarterfinal rematch with Ashland-Greenwood on September 18. Wayne High will open Class C1-5 District competition at Battle Creek on September 25; visit Norfolk Catholic in a non-district game on October 2 before closing out the final three weeks with district opponents vs. Boone Central (10/9), at O’Neill (10/16) and vs. Pierce (10/23).