For that senior class, which produced one of the best defenses in Wawasee history and revamped a wounded program, the legacy had been established. How the response will formulate for those returning will ultimately determine the course for the 2012 season.
Of the 22 offensive and defensive positions, 14 of those are vacated to graduation, eight coming on the defensive side of the ball. Where head coach Tom Wogomon has put the most worry after summer camp is the defensive line, which lost three All-Northern Lakes Conference performers.
“When you talk about having to replace those guys, you are talking about a pretty full plate that has gone away from us,” Wogomon said. “For us, we have some young men who are excited about stepping in and beginning to fill those roles.”
Slotting into the line mix will be seniors Chad Eppley and Jake Schwartz while senior Brian Clark and junior Gabe Rhodes will lead the linebackers. Wogomon will have some decisions to make in the secondary as three of the four starters from last fall are gone.
Where Wawasee could make end roads is on offense, which Wawasee hasn’t needed to do much of in recent years. Senior DJ Semon will step into quarterback duties, having not played a varsity snap at the position but did rush for 316 yards last season as a tailback.
Wogomon sang the praises of progression for Semon, who will lead a rush first, ask questions later attack.
“It’s no secret DJ is a tailback, he is a kid we are going to be able to use his feet a little bit,” Wogomon said. “To be honest, its a progression for him.
“We want to put DJ in as many athletic positions and opportunities as we can.”
Wawasee’s bread and butter on offense will be its running game. The big uglies up front are led by seniors Chris Pezan, Eppley and Schwartz along with juniors Ryan Crosley and Ronald Vardaman. They are in charge of making sure senior tailback Derrick Sorensen and Rhodes have room to roam.
Sorensen led the team with 809 rushing yards and has the ability to take over games, which he did against Plymouth (178 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Warsaw (140 yards, 2 TDs). Rhodes showed a lot of promise in limited varsity experience, but had a big JV campaign and could impact the running game right away.
“If Sorensen had not injured himself, he would have been a 1,000 yard rusher for us,” Wogomon said. “That has given us a nice luxury, we have been able to really assess and look at getting both guys on the field at the same time. They are going to make our offense go, and we are really putting the full load on Derrick this year.”
While the passing game will likely be the lesser of the two options on offense, Wawasee does have target options in senior Josh Sumpter, junior Austin Lutz and sophomore Clayton Cook. Tight ends Braxton O’Haver and Brian Clark also serve as options, but the only varsity catch between the two was by Clark, who intercepted a Concord pass for a touchdown last September.
Wawasee has a pair of kicking options in senior Jordan Acton and junior Jordan Brown. Acton worked with just kick-offs last season, but has a big leg and has the ability to hit long field goal attempts. Sorensen will again handle punting duties, averaging over 30 yards per attempt last season.
Wawasee Football Schedule
Aug. 17 at Whitko
Aug. 24 v. South Bend St. Joseph
Aug. 31 v. Northridge
Sept. 7 at Concord
Sept. 14 v. NorthWood
Sept. 21 at Plymouth
Sept. 28 v. Warsaw
Oct. 5 at Elkhart Memorial
Oct. 12 v. Goshen
Oct. 19 Sectional Round 1