Wayne High Names New Head Football Coach During School Board Meeting, Plager Remaining As Elementary Principal

WAYNE – During Monday’s Wayne Community Schools Board of Education meeting, Hayden DeLano will be hired as the 7th – 8th grade social studies teacher and be the next head football coach at Wayne High as Russ Plager steps down from the position while remaining as the current elementary principal.

Coach Plager spent five years guiding the Wayne High football team to four playoff appearances which included a Class C1 semifinal game in 2019. Coach Plager went 30-22 at Wayne High and again will remain in the school district as the elementary principal according to Superintendent of Wayne Community Schools, Dr. Mark Lenihan.

After going 3-6 in 2016, coach Plager then took over the helm and during his first season as the head coach led the Blue Devils to a 7-4 record including their first playoff football win since 1983 when WHS won 30-28 at Chadron. Following a 3-6 season in 2018, WHS was back in the playoffs in 2019 year finishing 9-3 falling to the eventual C1 champs, Wahoo in the semifinal round.

Most notably, Coach Plager led the program to the NSAA Class C1 semifinal game in 2019 while recording the first victory in a home playoff game in over 30 years.

According to Athletic Director, Dave Wragge, ‘coach Plager’s program produced several all–district performers and were known for representing the school and Blue Devils athletic program with the utmost class and respect.’

Wragge states “we are thankful for the work coach Plager did with the football team over the past five seasons. The football team has developed into a strong, top ten, Class C1 program under his leadership. We are excited to bring coach DeLano and his successful experience to Wayne to build on the strong foundation that has been established.”

Hayden DeLano will transition in as the head coach following five seasons as head coach for Cross County High School in Stromsburg where he also taught K-5 PE, freshman health and PE along with a leadership class. He’ll also be getting a middle level endorsement for junior high social studies and be assistant athletic director at Wayne.

Coach DeLano spent some time helping coach Adam Hoffman with baseball and coached the Pony League baseball team during his time in Wayne as a student at Wayne State College.

“It just kind of feels like home and it’s also a huge opportunity to take over a program like Wayne in Class C1,” said coach DeLano. “An established program and follow coach Plager that’s done a great job and it’s just a big honor and big opportunity that I’m excited about.”

Coach DeLano leaves the Cougars with a record of 34-21 overall including a 10-4 playoff record with four playoff appearances including two semifinal games in 2019 and 2020 before making it the finals this past season finishing runner-up in Class D1. Cross County also finished with an undefeated 8-0 regular season in 2020.

After going 1-8 in 2017 in Class C2 (11-man), Cross County made the switch to eight-man and the Cougars went 4-5 (playoff appearance).

“So, it’s been a good run,” coach DeLano added. “We’ve had a lot of success and broke a couple of state records in rushing and quite a few school records. Really played well for sure for several years now.”

After graduating from Wayne State College in 2016, DeLano spent time in southwest Missouri as the Athletic Director, K-12 PE teacher, assistant boys basketball, head varsity baseball and assistant football but wanted to be back in Nebraska.

This past season, Cross County finished with a 7-1 regular season record (lone loss to Howells-Dodge, 40-38) and went 4-1 in the Class D1 playoff ending with a 42-12 loss to Howells-Dodge in the finals.

Coach DeLano is joined by wife Kelsey, Knox (turns three in early April) and Jett (seven months old).

Coach DeLano mentioned Wayne is successful.

“Whether it’s winning bowling championships or going to state in basketball, softball, football everybody is successful,” coach DeLano mentioned. “The community obviously takes pride in that, the school district, the administration, the board they’ve obviously done a great job in who they hire and who they bring in and put in charge.”

When coach DeLano was in northeast Nebraska, he volunteered in Winside with their eight-man program. He said the general idea from eight-man to 11-man football is the same by just adding a few more players.

“My philosophy in how I coach and scheme wise, it fits well you know I believe in running football,” said DeLano. “I think in 11-man you have opportunities to do a little bit more, you can obviously add some receivers and do some things. But I think it’s going to go well.”

Coach DeLano looks forward to meeting with the staff in the next few weeks and will be in Wayne for summer weights, conditioning and camps once his teacher contracts days are complete at Cross County High School.

The Wayne High football team qualified for their third straight C1 playoff (14th overall) this past fall after going 5-4 in the regular season. WHS suffered a 42-35 loss to Boone Central in the opening round to end their 2021 season at 5-5.