WELLINGTON — The kids at Wellington have decided it’s time to get back to playing Dukes football.
In 2011, Wellington went 7-3 and made its way into the Division IV state playoffs. That was followed by a subpar 4-6 record, which the players decided wasn’t acceptable.
“We are bringing back good old Wellington Dukes hitting,” senior Jujuan Howard said. “We are trying to bring back coach (Matt) Stoll’s tradition, and he is doing his best to help us prepare to win. We just didn’t play good enough last year. We have a very good senior staff and we want to bring back leadership. We bring a lot to the table and we have a lot of leaders out there who can get the job done.”
If the Dukes want to get their record north of the .500 mark, they have to get the job done in their non-conference games. Wellington is just 2-13 in non-conference play over the last five seasons, beating Norwayne in 2009 and Edison in 2011. Both those schools are on the non-conference schedule, in addition to a trip to Rocky River during the second week of the season.
“Our schedule is tough, but you want to be as tough as those teams early in your schedule,” said Stoll, who is entering his 30th season as Wellington head coach. “We are playing a tough non-conference (schedule) and they are all good teams. We have to have the attitude that we are going to go in and win those games to set us up for the conference schedule.”
One drawback for the Dukes is the low numbers that turned out to play this year. There are just 35 players in uniform, with only three freshmen. Wellington is going to have to stay healthy to be competitive.
Wellington looks for more offensive consistency after being held to single digits in four games last year and winning just one of them. The Dukes averaged 36 points over their other six games.
Wellington will run the option again, with Joey Holliday and Howard possessing the ability to run the ball. There might be some new wrinkles, with the Dukes spreading the field more, but still showing the run as an option out of many different formations.
The key to the option is a fearless quarterback that can distribute the ball at the right time and an offensive line working together as a cohesive unit. The Dukes seem to have both of those in place.
“We are working hard on and off the field together,” said junior offensive lineman Dalton Denny. “There is a lot more communication with the line to make sure we all know what we are doing on every play. Guys aren’t afraid to ask if they aren’t sure and we’re getting it together for the start of the season.”
With seven returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Dukes may be ready to compete right away and keep the offense in games during the first three weeks.
“Those first three games on the schedule are pretty tough. If we can get some wins early, it will inspire us to do really well in conference play,” said senior nose tackle and running back Kazimer Dec. “Even after the season starts, we have to keep working hard in practice and get better every day.”
The Dukes have a different attitude than last season, and Stoll has noticed as much.
“This team is a little more together and we are getting some different leadership from our seniors,” he said. “Our leadership is better and we are looking to get back to winning Duke football.”
Contact James Brady at 3297135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference – Stars Division
2012 RECORD: 4-6, 4-3
COACH: Matt Stoll, 30th year, 185-125
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 14
RETURNING STARTERS: 12
FAST FACT: The Dukes have just one winning record in their non-conference games since the 2000 season. In the 2005 season Wellington defeated Norwayne (24-7) and Edison (39-20). During the recent playoff years since 2000, the Dukes went 1-2 in non-conference play.
Aug. 30 at Norwayne (7)
Sept. 6 at Rocky River (7)
Sept. 13 Edison (7)
Sept. 20 at Fairview (7) *
Sept. 27 Columbia (7) *
Oct. 4 at Black River (7) *
Oct. 11 Keystone (7) *
Oct. 18 Buckeye (7) *
Oct. 25 at Firelands (7) *
Nov. 1 Brookside (7) *