WELLSTON — For the first time since 2002, Wellston enters a football season as the hunted instead of being one of the hunters.
The Golden Rockets are coming off the most successful season in school history after capturing the TVC title and winning the school’s first playoff game as well.
Now the Golden Rockets step into 2021 hopefully it treats them just as well as 2020 did.
“This is the type of standard we’re wanting to build every single year,” Wellston coach Mike Smith said. “Playing for TVC and winning a playoff game, it’s those things that haven’t been done here before, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of making that a reality. We’re turning our program into one that earns people’s respect.”
It’s going to be a tall task after graduating 15 seniors, most of whom were starters and major contributors.
However, they are lucky enough to bring back senior quarterback Jeremiah Frisby as its offensive leader to lead this group of inexperienced players.
“We have three returning starters back on offense, and two on defense, and he’s one of them on both sides, so there’s a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders this year,” Smith said. “But, he’s the ultimate competitor, and the guys have followed his lead. I’ve been pretty pleased with the progress not only that he’s made, but that the team had made as well behind him.”
A brand new core of players step up into vacant positions across the rest of the offense, beginning at running back with Garrett Brown, Bodie Kemp and Gage Downard.
On the outside, Brenton Breech, Aidan Graham, Zach Wilbur, Joey Dovenbarger and Kyle Kisor will all see time at receiver, while Evan Brown returns to his tight end position.
“Are the guys we have now faster than last year’s group? No, probably not,” Smith said. “But, what they don’t have in speed, they make up for with their route running ability, and that’s what gets them open. The timing is starting to catch up and they’re finding their rhythm.”
Up front and paving the way for those guys is Payton Downard, Brendan Mullins, Michael Richardson, Branen Taborn, Ethan Caudill, Xavier Miller and Brandon Clagg will see time on both offensive and defensive line.
Brown returns and will set back to play linebacker alongside Kemp, Tucker Ervin, Gage Downard, Raims Morgan and Braley Thompson.
Meanwhile in the secondary, Frisby, Breech, Graham, Kisor, Dovenbarger and Isaac Molihan roam the back as the last line of defense.
“We have a lot of athletes across the field, there’s just almost no experience aside from a couple guys,” Smith said. “That’s out biggest challenge, but we’ve looked good in scrimmages and the pass protection has done very well. Once the experience catches up to how they play, then we’ll begin to take off.”
Prior to last season, Wellston had only won the TVC twice, which was in back-to-back season in 2001 and 2002.
History tends to repeat itself, and if it does, the TVC title will stay in Wellston, which is the ultimate goal for Smith and company.
“This is our third year as a coaching staff and this season will show us a lot about who we are as a program,” Smith said. “We were fortunate to have two great seniors classes who had winning seasons and made the playoffs. That’s the expectation we have and this group has to follow suit. Retaining the TVC and making a playoff run is what we aim to accomplish.”
Wellston opens its season on Friday at home against Oak Hill.