With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall. Here is the latest installment of our Camp Countdown:
After Wilson finished its Tuesday practice session, the players all dropped to one knee to receive Coach Mark Martin’s final words to wrap up the afternoon. Martin gave the team his thoughts, as he customarily does, but one sentence resonated above the rest for the Tigers: “The best 11 players are going to play.”
In past years, Wilson has strictly kept offensive and defensive players on their respective sides of the ball. With just one position to worry about, players were usually able to stay fresh through four quarters. But limiting their playing time also limited the opportunities for the team’s top talents to make plays in multiple facets of the game.
Martin has made it clear to his players and the staff that he will use the best available talent on his roster as Wilson looks to make a return run to the Turkey Bowl. The tigers made their first appearance in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title game since 1991 last season, a 25-13 loss to H.D. Woodson.
“You have to put the best on the field at all times if you want to be successful and have a chance to win,” Martin said. “In past years we didn’t do that, and we still had some good teams. This year, we’re going to put the best 11 on the field.”
Junior Abdul Adams spent time at linebacker for the final 30 minutes of practice. Martin said the East Carolina commit may be used at both linebacker and safety after rushing for a team-high 1,231 yards last season at 9.62 yards per carry last season.
Senior linebacker Kareem McDonald displayed the versatility to also play on the line as he accumulated eight sacks last season. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Virginia commit will test his skills at the H-back position on offense this season. Both players will be playing a new position for the first time on the high school level.
“I feel like we have a lot of talent this year at every position. The sky is the limit,” McDonald said. “If we put the best 11 on the field I know everybody is going to go hard. We got a chip on our shoulder from last season so it’s going to be a good season.”
Wilson has a tougher schedule this season, which begins with a scrimmage against defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion DeMatha on Saturday and includes a Week 1 home game against perennial WCAC power Good Counsel. After facing Dunbar three times last season, the Tigers could conceivably see defending DCSAA champion H.D. Woodson or Ballou three times this fall, including the playoffs. As a result, Martin beefed up his non-league schedule.
“It’s definitely important to come out strong because you don’t want to start the season bad,” Adams said. “You definitely want to come out and get that W.”
Adams returns 15 pounds stronger this season at 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, and forms a dynamic two-headed running attack with senior Larry Frazier (1,309 yards in 2013). Wilson also will have wide receivers Juwan Hikim and Sean Savoy to spread the field. Savoy is an explosive player, but missed all of last season with a broken collarbone.
With seven returning starters on offense, sophomore starting quarterback Steve Williams will have a plethora of options to choose from after serving as a back-up to graduated starter Scott Beumel last season.
“We have to remember, he’s 14-years-old. For a 14-year-old I think he’s where he is supposed to be,” Martin said of the lefty signal caller. “He’s going to get better. The sky is the limit for Steve because he works hard, the kid has good grades and he’s intelligent. By the time he’s in the 11th or 12th grade he’s definitely going to be a weapon.”
The Tigers lost five of their top six tacklers to graduation, but have a very mature secondary that will attempt to lower the 17.3 points they allowed per game last season. Senior safety Donovan Ferguson (team-high five interceptions) will be paired with highly touted Kenny Holmes, a hard-hitting safety who some around the program regard as the top talent on the team. Cornerbacks Jaylen Braswell and Justin Cole also bring experience on the outside.