Goss: For openers, Wilmington clicks in all phases
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2013 10:58PM
Wilmington coach Jeff Reents | File photo
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:47PM
Certain high school football programs succeed regardless of how many starters they have returning.
The kids have advanced through a solid system and understand waiting for their opportunity.
That’s what has happened at Wilmington in coach Jeff Reents’ 20-year run. It helps explain an opening-night score that at first glance may be stunning.
Not that the Wildcats could not make the short trip to Coal City and win, but who saw 22-0 coming? That was the final Saturday night, when like everyone else, the teams waited an extra day because of Friday evening storms.
“Friday was upsetting at the time, but we relaxed and were mentally ready to play Saturday,” said Wilmington senior linebacker/fullback/captain Austin Skoryi. “We lost a very close game last year (13-12) and didn’t want to lose again to them. We worked hard for it.”
“I want to commend (Coal City athletic director) Dan Hutchings, (principal) Mitch Hamann and everyone at Coal City on how they handled a tough situation,” Reents said. “For our part, we didn’t have to re-rally the kids. They got up the next morning and we did it all over again. We treated it like a playoff Saturday.”
There’s familiar territory. Wilmington is seeking its 18th consecutive playoff berth.
“We don’t have many starters returning,” Skoryi said. “But you start getting ready in eighth grade to get your chance to play here, and our coaches do an excellent job getting us ready. We have a good group of juniors and a number of returning varsity members who maybe didn’t play a lot last year, but they’ve come up through the program and know what to do.”
Besides Skoryi, two-way lineman Dexter Fierro and linebacker/running back Alex Zlomie had starting experience last season, when the Wildcats finished 9-3, dropping a 28-26 Class 3A quarterfinal decision to Sterling Newman.
New faces abound otherwise, yet good things happened at Coal City.
“We really played well defensively,” Reents said. “Our kids played fast. We stopped some of their main guns, although Coal City had a couple of key injuries.”
The Coalers lost defensive tackle Salvador Velasco (shoulder) and running back Jack Dibble (knee) in the first quarter, defensive tackle Zach Scerine (knee) in the second and wide receiver/defensive end Nick Peters (shoulder) in the fourth. Peters is expected back this week, Scerine next week and Velasco and Dibble are pending.
Reents said senior cornerback Nick Narine “gave us outstanding coverage, a lot of one-on-one. All our kids carried out their assignments well.”
“I feel really good about our defense,” Skoryi said.
Offensively, junior Mason Southall, son of veteran offensive coordinator Barry Southall, made his first varsity start at quarterback. He also is the starting free safety and long snapper.
Southall directed a unit that finished with 360 total yards. Nick McWilliams rushed for 181 and two long touchdown runs. Zlomie tacked on 108.
“We stayed in the double wing pretty much the whole time,” Reents said. “To have 360 yards with little starting experience, I commend Barry Southall for his work with that group.”
“Our offensive line was great,” Skoryi said. “They have worked their butts off.”
Reents said it is gratifying to beat a program of Coal City’s ilk.
“I have a lot of respect for those guys,” he said. “To win over there is a feather in our hat. It maybe wasn’t as big in the grand scheme as Joliet Catholic-Providence, but it compares to it.”
For one night, things went swimmingly. Don’t expect the Wildcats, who entertain Sandwich in Friday’s home opener, to rest on their laurels, however.
“There was big hype for Coal City like there always is,” Skoryi said. “We showed up and gave it what we had. Our mentality has to stay the same this week and the rest of the season.”