To be sure, this Wayne football team has a long way to go to measure up to other great Warriors teams of playoffs past. But they’re closing fast.
“We know that we don’t have the stars and the big players,” junior defensive stopper Robert Landers said after Wayne sent Dublin Coffman home with a 31-10 dismissal from the high school football playoffs on Saturday night at Fairmont.
“We’re just one big family. If we stay together, we can beat any team.”
That remains to be seen. Here’s what we do know: Wayne (11-1) is the last area Division I team standing. The Warriors are the first area D-I team to advance this deep into the playoffs since, well, Braxton Miller-fueled Wayne in 2010.
Wayne will play Hilliard Davidson in Saturday’s D-I, Region 2 semifinal at a neutral site that’ll be announced today.
The Warriors are chock full of believers. They won head coach Jay Minton over early in preseason.
“Back in two-a-days I said that there was something about this team,” gushed Minton after another defensive gem. “I guess it was the leadership, combined with the chemistry, that they’re just special. I know that we overuse that word sometimes, but I really mean it with this group.”
It also helps to land on the right side of the bracket. The other Region 2 semifinal pits defending state champ Moeller against top-ranked Colerain.
There was concern with Coffman (8-4), which started the season 1-3. Besides, Coffman had stunned host Centerville last week after piling up a 35-0 halftime lead. This was supposed to be a Wayne/Centerville rematch. Instead, it was a Coffman beat-down.
Coffman’s offense against the Warriors went unplugged. Led by a hyperactive front four of the 6-foot-1, 280-pound Landers, Logan Lee, Aquil Tiggs and Calvin Holt, the Warriors allowed 54 yards rushing. Forced to pass, Coffman couldn’t sustain any challenge there, either.
Kenny Bester overcame two fumbles and ran for 173 yards and a touchdown in place of Wayne regular Trey McFadden, who reinjured an ankle three plays into the game.
And junior quarterback D’Mitrik Trice continues to come up big when needed most. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 290 yards, no picks and two scores. Tristan Davis had 11 catches for 189 yards and Chad Swanson seven for 70. Both scored once.
That all added up to another impressive win. The Warriors are on a path where few other Wayne teams have ventured.
“We’re just going to play Wayne ball, keep on rollin’ and try and get this (championship) ring,” said Landers.