WISE — The 2012 season was a difficult one for Wise Central’s football team. It was the way the Warriors behaved toward the end of it that made the strongest impression on coach Darren Reed.
On the week leading up to the season-ending game with rival J.I. Burton, Wise was hit with a blast of early winter.
“It would have been very easy for our kids to want to go to the house because we were 3-6, we had 2 feet of snow, it was 15 degrees and it was very hard to practice,” Reed said.
“That week, we were miserable and cold, but it indicated the desire and passion these kids have. There was no bellyaching. They were flying around in all that cold weather.”
Central lost the season finale 34-21 in a Saturday game at Carl Smith Stadium that officially ended Lonesome Pine District football. Denied a playoff berth, the inspired Central players went into the weight room on Thanksgiving break. They’ve been there ever since.
“Strength-wise, I don’t know who you’d compare them with. But they’re a much stronger, much more physical team,” said Reed, a longtime Gate City assistant coach who took over the Wise program last season.
The 2012 slate held more than its fair share of disappointments. It was at times a painful experience, but it was a ton of experience — most of which is back for 2013. There are eight returning starters on offense, nine on defense.
All discussion of the Warriors offense begins with senior veteran Logan Collins, who has taken practice reps as a tailback, slot, wide receiver and even quarterback this August.
“I’ve practiced everywhere this year,” said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Collins, who rushed for 880 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012 despite having his season interrupted by an early shoulder injury. “I’m not really sure where I’m going to play.”
The only sure thing is that he’s playing somewhere.
“We’re going to take advantage of his situation as much as we can. He’s too good of an athlete,” Reed said. “If they take him away from us, our kids know we have other options. If they don’t take him away, we’re going to go to him every time.”
Junior Brad Brooks (5-11, 194) and sophomore Cody Lester (6-0, 157) add power and speed to the running backs. Senior Jacob Buchanan (6-1, 188) returns at H-back.
Senior Shawn Gardner (5-8, 135) and sophomore Daniel England (6-1, 190) are vying for the starting quarterback spot left open when Tyler Mullins graduated.
Sophomore Austin Reynolds looks for his first start at split end.
Up front, left tackle Christian Masters (6-0, 241, Jr.) is the only new face of an interior line that includes left guard Dalton Cress (6-2, 268, Jr.), center Tyler Robinson (5-9, 220, Jr.), right guard Austin Reed (6-1, 258, Sr.) and right tackle Damon Kilgore (5-10, 190, Jr.).
Collins is a solid punter, but the Warriors must replace kicker Stephen Saucier, who hit 17 of Wise’s 18 PAT kicks last year.
In 2011, Lee High’s Tyler Graham rushed for 487 yards against the Warriors. When Reed took over, defense became a priority.
“By the end of the season, we were pretty stout,” Reed said. “We still have some issues in our secondary. But I couldn’t be more pleased with our front eight.”
Roman Williams (6-0, 192, Jr.), who led the team in tackles with 73½, returns at inside linebacker. Other vets include ILB Jacob Jessee (5-11, 180, So.) and outside linebackers Tanner Stumpf (5-11, 190) and Buchanan. Jake Freeman (5-6, 140, Jr.) and Ryan Osborne (5-9, 219, Sr.) return at the down tackles with Malcolm Williams (5-10, 201, Jr.) in the rotation. Cole Dickerson (6-1, 195, Sr.) returns at one end, joined by Shannon Short (6-0, 188, Jr.) at the other.
Logan Adkins (5-8, 175, Jr.), the team’s second-leading tackler, returns at safety. Dalton McCoy (5-10, 150, So.) and Reynolds (5-11, 150, So.) move in at the corners.