SPRINGFIELD — The Wayne Warriors, perched atop the GWOC National East Division, travel to Springfield on Friday to take on the second place Springfield Wildcats. Wayne stumbled its way to a 35-0 victory, while Springfield battled out a 32-27 win at Beaverceek.
Wayne ran its record to 7-0-1 on the season and put itself in control of its playoff destiny. If the Warriors run the table, they will be assured a spot in the playoffs and most likely a home game in the first round. Right now the Warriors have not yet peaked, but will need to start playing their best football to close the season out.
In its third season under former Trotwood head coach Maurice Douglass, the Wildcats seem to have turned the corner. They are no longer at the bottom of the division and have already avenged some heartbreaking losses to Northmont, Centerville and Beavercreek from last year. An upset against Wayne would all but tie up a playoff spot for the Wildcats.
This game would be considered a rivalry if the series weren’t so lopsided; Wayne leads 7-1 since 2008. The only loss was a 29-21 shocker at Wayne’s Homecoming in 2010, midway through Braxton Miller’s State Championship runner-up season.
Great potential doesn’t win championships. Great teams know how to win regardless of who they are playing or the amount of adversity they encounter. Wayne has great potential, but they also have a lot of resolve. They have been in hostile crowds, come out flat and fallen behind, had multiple turnovers and still survived. All of these games looked like blowouts on paper, but were actually games that Wayne was definitely in a fight.
The Warriors don’t want to come out flat against the Wildcats this week. While Springfield may not have the number of playmakers that Wayne has, it does have a few that make a huge difference.
When Wayne has the ball
Wayne’s running game has not been featured as much as earlier in the season. The load has been light for Fred Pitts and Josh Foster, so they should be fresh heading into the end of the season and into the playoffs. Springfield has a few players that play both ways, so Wayne’s should be able to wear out the Springfield defense and have success in the running game.
Rashad McKee has some uncharacteristic struggles against Fairmont last week. Credit has to go to Fairmont for confusing the young quarterback with coverages. McKee recovered well to overcome the three interceptions settle down.
Look for Springfield to try and shut down the run and try to pressure McKee into mistakes. The Wildcats’ inside linebacker and leading tackler, Cameron Hoelscher leads the GWOC in sacks with 6. Springfield also has 21 interceptions on the year. However, the Wildcats have their hands full because Wayne deploys a lot of weapons and with a few key Springfield players playing both ways; they are going to get a little winded.
When Springfield has the ball
Wayne is going to have to know where #7, senior offensive weapon senior Daniel Davis is at all times. Davis should be listed in the program as athlete, because plays running back, receiver, returner and defensive back. He also has a touchdown pass which was a halfback option pass against Northmont a couple of weeks ago.
Davis isn’t the only one that can hurt a defense though; with teams focusing on stopping Davis, senior running back Shane Ramey has emerged as a legitimate threat on the ground. Shane Ramey averages 8.4 per carry and is the Wildcats’ leading scorer.
After some lousy results at the quarterback position early in the season, the Wildcats have found their man in the form of 6 foot 6 inch senior defensive end, Leonard Taylor. Taylor is more of a threat to run and mostly in the red zone. Taylor has 4 touchdown passes but 8 touchdowns on the ground. When Taylor does pass his frequent target is Daniel Davis, who has 15 of Springfield’s 34 receptions.
Daniel Davis the Wildcats’ primary kick and punt returner averages 23 yards per kick return and has returned a punt for a touchdown this year. The coverage team will have to make sure tackles because Davis is hard to catch in the open field.
Wayne kicker Garrett Russell returned last week and was 5 for 5 on extra points. It looks like Trevor Hawley, who filled in for Russell while he was injured, will continue handling kickoff duties.
Wayne will once again play in a hostile environment when it clashes with Wildcats in Springfield. There is going to be a lot of energy from the home crowd Friday night. Springfield always plays Wayne tough and this game should be no different. Springfield’s offense will try to use Wayne aggressiveness to force mismatches it can take advantage of. The Wildcats will try to keep the Wayne front 7 busy with inside runs, then attack the Warriors on the perimeter and take periodic shots deep.
Springfield will make Rashad McKee have to beat them, but he doesn’t have to beat them. He just needs to take what the Springfield defense gives him and that should be enough. McKee had a learning experience last week and I’m sure the coaching staff used that experience to prepare him for this week.
This is a game the Warriors should win handily, but they don’t want to let the Wildcats hand around late at home. If Wayne comes out and plays their game that shouldn’t happen.
Reach Robert Williamson II via email at: RobertWilliamsonII@gmail.com
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