Wayland Academy Big Red (Beaver Dam) - Trailways -Small
Coach: Tyler Hill (2nd Season), 0-6
2016 Result: 0-6 (Independent)
Three-Year Record: 0-22
2016 All-Conference Honors: Independent/No Conference
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 0 First-Team, 2 Second-Team, 2 Honorable Mention (4 total)
Returning All-Conference Players: None
Other Players To Watch: RB/LB Gracien Jules; RB Oscar Sun; DL Cole Abel, Sr.; Ethan Krein
BIG Games: vs Deerfield September 23, at Rio September 29, vs Johnson Creek October 13
After a one-year stint as an independent making the transition from 8-player football to 11, Wayland Academy is now a part of the Trailways-Small.
The Big Red struggled through their 2016 campaign, scoring just 28 points in six contests, 16 of them coming in their final game of the year. However, program stability and a chance to be a part of a conference could point to better results in seasons moving forward.
"We’re returning a great group of young men, and I’m really excited to get the season underway... I’m excited to see what our boys do on the gridiron this year." - Wayland Academy Head Coach Tyler Hill
So why the move back to 11-player football?
"We’ve always had enough players to play 11-man football, but due to the international nature of our boarding community, most students were unable to arrive until mid August," said Wayland Academy Football Coach Tyler Hill. "With the WIAA taking over 8-man this year, and moving the start date to coincide with 11-man, it was no longer advantageous to play an 8-man schedule starting a few weeks later. Plus, the opportunity to move into the Trailways opened up, and this way, we're competing against the same teams the majority of our teams play against."
Plus, last year, the Big Red played what essentially was a boiled-down Trailways schedule.
"Last year, we played 11-man as well, and wound up playing most of the Trailways teams," said Coach Hill. "So it should be a rather natural transition."
Speaking of the schedule, their first game isn't until September 1, and that's by design, since as Hill mentioned, most students don't arrive until mid-August, which is when the football season begins around the state (August 17 and 18). In fact, the Big Red will have barely practiced by that point.
"Camp won’t start for us until the 16th of August," said Coach Hill, "which puts us behind the eight-ball a bit."
As for the team, Wayland Academy graduates just four seniors, but there are a handful of standouts that should lead the way for the Big Red.
"Gracien Jules is a big contributor on both sides of the ball for us," said Hill. "He joins Oscar Sun at running back again this year, and will be holding down middle linebacker.
"Cole Abel is a four-year starter at defensive end. Ethan Krein missed a majority of last season with an injury, but has been putting in lots of work, including attending a USA football camp this spring so he can be in peak physical condition for this fall."
Along with some player continuity, the Big Red will also have stability on the coaching staff.
"This season marks the first season in five years where the Big Red will have a returning staff and playbook," said Hill, now in his second year as head coach after serving as an assistant at Wayland Academy prior. "I’ve coached this year’s group of seniors for the last four years."
On the schedule, Wayland Academy plays in seven games, all against Trailways-Small opponents. They'll open up on the road on September 1 against Cambria/Friesland, last year's Trailways-Small champion. The Big Red's home opener is against Fall River, one of the teams they faced last year.
The third week of the season for Wayland is September 15 against Lourdes Academy, the second-place team in the Trailways-Small last year.
The Big Red will play a Saturday home date against Deerfield on September 23. Deerfield went 0-10 last season.
A pair of road games at Rio and Randolph, the latter of which Wayland Academy faced as an independent last year, takes the Big Red to the regular-season finale, a home date with Johnson Creek. Johnson Creek beat the Big Red last year, 84-0.
"We’re returning a great group of young men, and I’m really excited to get the season underway," said Coach Hill. "I’m excited to see what our boys do on the gridiron this year."
--Jimmie Kaska @jimmekaska