Wapakoneta takes on Bellefontaine in opening game
BELLEFONTAINE — The new era of Wapakoneta Redskins football will unfold Friday as the team plays its first regular season game under first-year head coach Travis Moyer, against the Bellefontaine Cheiftains.
After a 9-2 record in the 2013 season, which ended in the school hosting its first ever home playoff game, the Redskins completed the best four-year stretch in program history under Doug Frye, who returned to coach St. Marys.
Moyer will face 10 unfamiliar opponents during the regular season, with Bellefontaine first in line to take on the Redskins.
The coach commented on the process of attempting to become knowledgeable about the teams Wapakoneta will face this season.
“It’s definitely a challenge, obviously, being new to this area and really no type of connection that way,” he said. “Every opponent is new, and we’ll have to do our job in terms of watching film and breaking down tendencies, and try to familiarize ourselves with these opponents as much as possible.”
Wapakoneta has higher roster numbers and a senior-laden team entering the 2014 season.
However, a lot of new starters will be emerging. Plus, some of the team’s top returners have changed positions.
Moyer talked about the nature of season’s first game.
“For the first time, you’re in a situation when a lot of kids are in their first time being underneath the lights,” he said. “Even for the kids coming back, it’s still a first game. I’ve always called it ‘the game of uncertainty,’ in terms of that. Hopefully, we’ll settle down once the game gets kicked off and execute well.”
The Redskins’ first goal this season is to win the Western Buckeye League title. The second one is to qualify for the playoffs.
Since the WBL schedule includes nine league games each year, Wapakoneta’s non-league game Friday against Bellefontaine is its only regular season game which, obviously, does not apply to the first goal.
It does, however, factor into the second one in a major way. Moyer discussed its importance in terms of the playoff picture.
“It’s always important to get off to a good start,” Moyer said. “We told the kids on Saturday, our No. 2 goal is to make the state playoffs. To do that, Game 1 is just as important as Game 10.
“With a non-league game, that’s our focus right now, in terms of us having the opportunity to reach goal No. 2. This is a very critical game. We just have to focus on getting off to a good start and understanding what’s at stake.”
Since WBL schools play only one non-league game, a win for Wapakoneta over an improving Bellefontaine program is crucial as far as collecting computer points, which determine the state’s playoff participants.
The Chieftains went 1-8 in 2012 before going 5-5 last season, with all five of their losses last season coming to eventual playoff qualifiers.
Wapakoneta won last year’s meeting 35-17.
Adam Henderson scored three total touchdowns, while Jon Eaton led Wapakoneta in rushing and had a touchdown reception in the Redskins’ win last year against Bellefontaine.
The Chieftains’ quarterback Jake Kennedy (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) and running back Jordan Baughman (5’8, 220) return from last season.
“They’re in a spread offense,” Moyer said. “Any time you talk about a spread, you look at the signalcaller. They’ve got a dual-threat quarterback who can hurt you with his arm and legs. He’ll present a huge challenge for us.
“They have a tailback who is returning. It’s going to be important to get 11 hats to the ball. He’s a physical runner who can run between the tackles and also outside. Our defense has got a huge challenge for us this week. They do a good job of getting athletes one on one. It’s going to be important for us to do a good job of tackling this week.”
Bellefontaine operates a 5-2 formation, defensively.
“It’s an attacking style of defense,” Moyer said. “They’re athletic up front. Some of their skill players play defense. We’re going to have to do a good job of executing. We’re going to have to be much more consistent on offense than we have been. It’s a work in progress. It’s something we have to get better at each and every day.”
Along with heated competition on the first night of the high school football regular season, Wapakoneta and Bellefontaine players will be dealing with hot temperatures during the game.
Weather forecasts put Friday’s high for temperature in the upper 80s.
“The first thing is, we have not had a hot summer until this week,” Moyer said. “With our first game being the high 80s or low 90s, it’s really about our kids acclimating themselves to playing in that type of temperature.
“It’ll be really important that we hydrate and take care of our bodies. We want to avoid any kind of cramping and dehydration. We’ll definitely encourage our players to drink and hydrate as much as possible.”
Kickoff for Friday’s game is slated at 7:30 p.m.
The game Friday will be the first regular season contest played on the newly installed artificial turf at Bellefontaine’s stadium.