By David Fong
TROY — One year ago, the Wayne football team finished the season as the Division I state runner-up.
A few months later on National Signing Day, eight Warrior football players signed letters of intent to play college football — including defensive tackle Robert Landers, who signed with Ohio State, and defensive back Tyree Kinnel, who signed with Michigan. Wide receiver Ahmed Wagner gave his pledge to Iowa to play basketball.
All of which seemingly would leave the cupboard a little bare in Huber Heights, correct?
Not so fast.
“They’ve been able to replace just about everybody with no problems,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. Friday, his team faces the daunting task of taking on an undefeated Wayne team that seemingly has picked up right where it left off, as it will enter Friday’s contest at the No. 2 team in the Division I Associated Press Poll. “They are just as good, if not better, this year than the were last year.
“That’s just the kind of depth they have over there. It’s pretty incredible, really. They are a quality football team with great athletes. They lose one All-Ohio quarterback and replace him with another All-Ohio quarterback from a different division. They are a program that really just has things going for them. They’ve done a great job building their program.”
Seemingly, the Warriors have in fact replaced all the graduated talent. When quarterback D’Mitrik Trice, a Division I All-Ohio selection, graduated, the blow was softened when Trotwood quarterback Messiah DeWeaver — a Division III All-Ohio selection who has committed to play at Michigan State next season — enrolled at Wayne.
Through three games, DeWeaver has completed 35 of 61 passes for 570 yards and three touchdowns. He’s hardly Wayne’s only weapon on offense, however. Running back Fred Pitts has 39 carries for 289 yards — an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Sophomore receiver L’Christian Smith has 10 catches for 216 yards, while teammate Daryl McCleskey has six catches for 205 yards.
The offensive line is anchored by 6-foot-4, 286-pound senior Brandon Bronaugh.
“They’ve got athletes everywhere on offense,” Burgbacher said. “You can’t single out just one guy. And their offensive line is huge. They are bigger, on average, than Miamisburg. They can just maul you up front.”
Defensively, the Warriors start seven seniors currently being looked at by Division I colleges, including all four of their defensive backs.
“They’ve got great athletes — and it’s not just their skill guys,” Burgbacher said. “Their two defensive tackles come off the ball as fast and has hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. Defensively, they swarm to the ball. And it’s not just one or two or three kids getting to the ball — they’ve got 11 guys getting to the ball, including their defensive linemen. They’ve got 11 great athletes on defense.”
All told, according to the recruiting website www.rivals.com, there are 14Warriors on the roster with potential to play Division I college football.
Which doesn’t mean the Trojans will be backing down Friday, Burgbacher said.
“We know there’s no one outside of our locker room who thinks we can win this game,” he said. “We understand that. We want to shock the state. We want people to be looking at the scores Saturday morning, see that Wayne lost and say, ‘Who in the heck beat Wayne?’ We know it won’t be easy, but we believe in ourselves and we believe in one another.
“We know it’s a tremendous challenge, but we aren’t going to back down from this challenge. We are going to come out Friday night and give it our best shot.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong