WELLINGTON — Only nine lettermen return from a Wellington team that posted a 4-6 record in 2010. Head coach Matt Stoll thinks those nine players might be the right nine players.
Those nine players are expected to take 13 starting positions as Wellington seeks to better last year's record and win the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division for the first time since 2006.
"We only have six seniors, but I think they can be good leaders," Stoll said. "Our numbers are up, to 46 (players). That's back up to where they should be."
Last year's Dukes had a roster of 30. Depth was a problem then. This season, the issue is a shortage of experience because of last year's lack of depth.
"We have a lot of two-way players," Stoll said. "That's our weakness. We need to develop depth, no question."
But Stoll is enthused about his first string. Talk of Wellington has to start with Clay Wright, a third-team All-Ohio Division IV linebacker who was also the Dukes' most potent offensive weapon.
As a running back Wright (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) rushed for 677 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns and had 16 receptions for 182 yards and a TD. A 255-yard effort against Stars Division rival Buckeye did much to get him named All-PAC as a ball carrier.
It was at linebacker where Wright really distinguished himself. He was All-Lorain County first team and All-Northeast Lake District after leading the Dukes with 132 tackles.
"Clay's even more important to us on defense," Stoll said. "He calls all our defenses. He makes sure everyone is in the right place. He's a leader on defense. That's where he will play (in college)."
The Dukes will use the wing-T, the traditional formation at Wellington, as the base offense. The one who will trigger the attack will be junior Dylan Weidrick, who took over for Jason Perry after Perry was knocked out for the season by a head injury in Week 3.
Weidrick completed 43 of 97 attempts (44.3 percent) for 616 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions. His record as a starter was 4-3.
"Dylan is a fine athlete and we will utilize his talent as a runner," Stoll said. "We will do the option, sprintout passes, play-action passing. We expect big things from him."
Weidrick has no shortage of experienced teammates to whom to throw. Zac Gilbert is back at wide receiver and Nathan Gray returns at tight end. Nathan Starkey, a senior out for high school football for the first time, is a wide receiver who "shows promise," according to Stoll. Fullback Quinn Dendinger, who started as a freshman in 2010, will be required to catch a few passes, as will, naturally, Wright.
Two starters return to the interior line — senior guard Nick Sutherland (5-10, 204) and junior center Ryan Alspach (6-1, 240).
Wright wasn't the only Dukes player to claim honors on defense. Gilbert was All-PAC and All-Lorain County at safety after a season in which he had four interceptions. Junior Trey Brown (5-8, 204) was called "a pleasant surprise" by Stoll, and grabbed all-county in his first year as a starter at tackle.
Also back to start on defense are Gray at the other safety, Alspach ("leaner and meaner," according to Stoll) at the other tackle and junior Alex Rush at cornerback.
Patriot Athletic, Stars Division
COACH: Matt Stoll, 22nd year
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 9
RETURNING STARTERS: 9
FAST FACT: Wellington intercepted 16 passes in 2010. Only five Dukes passes were picked off.
Aug. 26 at Norwayne (7:30)
Sept. 2 Avon
Sept. 9 Edison
Sept. 16 at Columbia*
Sept. 23 Clearview*
Sept. 30 at Firelands*
Oct. 7 Black River*
Oct. 14 Keystone*
Oct. 21 Brookside*
Oct. 28 at Buckeye*
All games 7 p.m. unless noted
* - PAC games
Read more high school football previews:
- Elyria Catholic
- North Ridgeville
- Avon Lake
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.