A high-octane offense was enough to get Wellington Dukes football back to .500 last year, but hopes for further improvement will rely on a new coach and fresh faces in important roles.
Roy Moore takes over as coach following the departure of Sean Arno, who announced in January he’d accepted an offer from Elyria High School to become its sideline general.
Moore’s coaching career began in 1974 as junior varsity head coach and varsity defensive coordinator at Midpark High School. Following that, he worked as linebackers coach at Baldwin-Wallace University from 1986 to 2013.
He’s also spent the past two years as WHS’s track and field coach and has taught computer science in the district for six years.
“We’re all kind of getting to know each other but it’s going well,” said Moore during a practice session Aug. 2. “There’s good things that came out of last season to build on but there’s also room for improvement.”
Wellington’s 33.7 points per game ranked fifth in Lorain County last season. Its 5-5 record was the best finish for the team since going 7-4 in 2011 and playoff hopes remained alive until a loss to Black River in week 10.
The Dukes finished 2-3 against Patriot Athletic Conference Starts division competition.
Improvement will have to come without several prominent contributors from 2016. The versatile Max Carevic, speedster Nate Nocella, and space-eating lineman Dauson Hammer were all lost to graduation.
In addition, leading receiver Trevor Porter and starting quarterback Tristan Arno chose to leave the district.
Offensively, the team will stick with spread formations that were successful last season with a few added wrinkles. An attacking 4-4 front on defense will aim to make teams beat the Dukes through the air.
The team’s number two receiver in 2016, senior Mason Wright, is competing with sophomore Ben Higgins to take over as starting quarterback.
“Having the responsibility of being the number one receiver and maybe even quarterback means a lot,” said Wright. “I’m trying to step up and be a leader because I still remember what it was like to be a new guy. I want to show the new guys how to play at the varsity level.”
“These years went really, really fast,” he added. “Once the last year gets here, it’s kind of a reality check. We want to make the playoffs and we’re going to do everything possible to make that happen.”
Fellow senior Parker Rieske is also welcoming added responsibility as he’ll likely move up the ladder at wide receiver, especially if Wright ends up becoming starting quarterback.
“We’ve been working on improving our blocking schemes and giving 100 percent on every play,” he said. “To come out on top in close games, it’s all about execution and doing your job every single play.”
Returning lettermen include Wright, Rieske, Justin Skinner, Corey Feron, Brandon Sorg, Alex Goss, and Drew Mason.
Moore said to also look out for new contributors such as Mason McClellan, Jayden Skinner, Caleb Teague, and Zack Constantino.
“We have a very talented group of young guys coming up,” said Moore. “Everyone has worked a lot on conditioning to help out the guys who are playing on both sides of the ball. There’s a great tradition here and we want to add to that.”
The Dukes kick off the 2017 season Aug. 25 at home against Normandy.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.