NEW WILMINGTON, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – The Greyhounds were turned away by powerhouse Southern Columbia in the Class 2A state championship once again. However, Wilmington topped Farrell for their 5th consecutive D10 title (19-14).
Entering the 2021 season without many players who played significant roles over the last few years, how does coach Brandon Phillian keep the momentum going?
“Through great work ethic from the members of this year’s team will give ourselves the opportunity to have (the same) success. Throughout the winter and spring, they’ve demonstrated a hunger to compete at a high-level. I think we’ve created a culture that demands a high-standard of excellence from our players. While the faces will be new, these same faces played key roles last season on special teams, as backups, and as scout team players. In playing these roles, they witnessed first-hand from last year’s seniors what it takes to be successful. They’re very eager to take the lessons they’ve learned and keep the program’s momentum going strong,” Phillian said.
Over the course of the last five years, Wilmington has played 69 games. That’s about 14 games a season. The Greyhounds are 61-8 during that span.
Week one begins at home on Friday, August 27 when the ‘Hounds welcome Reynolds.
2020 Record: 10-1 (6-0, 1st place in Region 1 2A)
Coach: Brandon Phillian, 4th season (35-4)
2020 Big 22: Ethan Susen; Big 22 member heading to the Big Ten next year
Previewing Wilmington’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 38.0 (4th in Area)
Total Offense: 395.4
Returning Starters: 2
Key Returnees: Luke Edwards, SR/HB; Brayden Powell, SR/OL
Key Losses: Caelan Bender, QB; Jake Chimiak, OL; Jason Hess, TE; Darren Miller, RB; Weston Phanco, OL; Mason Reed, WR; Ethan Susen, ATH; Connor Vass-Gal, OL; Morgan Whiting, OL
Name to watch for: Luke Edwards, HB
Over the last five years, Wilmington has averaged over 38 points per game in each season (2020: 38.0; 2019: 41.3; 2018: 44.7; 2017: 39.3; 2016: 48.5). Since coach Phillian took over the program in 2018, the ‘Hounds have been able to keep pace with the standard. In 2018, the offense accumulated an average of 445.1 yards per game. The next year, they were able to keep that figure above 385 (387.5). Last year, the Greyhounds nearly averaged 400 yards per game (395.4).
“We have two quarterbacks on the roster from last year’s team – Cole McCallister and Tuff McConahy,” Phillian said. “We expect Luke Edwards to run the ball well again this season.” Edwards, a senior, gained 8.8 yards per carry on his 38 totes. Luke also recorded 367 yards from scrimmage last year and scored 6 offensive touchdowns.
Also look out for Gage DeCaprio, Michel Chrastina, Ty Milliron, Ben Miller, Tyler Mikulin and Buddah Book to be in the running for touches out of the backfield.
“We expect this year’s line to be anchored by seniors Brayden Penwell and Elon Horchler,” Phillian points out. “Replacing Weston (Phanco), Connor (Vass-Gal), Morgan (Whiting), and Jake (Chimiak) will be a ‘big’ task both literally and figuratively. The linemen, under the leadership of these three seniors, have trained extremely hard this winter and are continuing to train hard this spring. While not as big in stature, we expect this group to play with the same grit and toughness that last year’s line exhibited.”
Previewing Wilmington’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 16.1 (9th in Area)
Total Defense: 242.4
Returning Starters: 3
Key Returnees: Luke Edwards, SR/LB; Cole McCallister, SR/CB; Skyler Sholler, SR/LB
Key Losses: Caelan Bender, DB; Jake Chimiak, DL; Darren Miller, LB; Weston Phanco, DT; Mason Reed, DB; Braxton Shimrack, DB; Ethan Susen, DB; Connor Vass-Gal, DL; Morgan Whiting, DL
Name to watch for: Skyler Sholler, LB
Wilmington’s defense lost 8 First-Team All-Region selections to graduation this past spring.
Coach Phillian said, “We return two starters at the linebacker level and one in the secondary. How well our new starters are able to communicate and play with one another will determine how strong we’re on defense. During camp, we’ll be looking for guys to compete for these spots. Every player will be given an opportunity. The best competitors will win these spots. Filling these spots with the best players will be the focus on defense heading into this summer and into camp.”
Returning linebackers Skyler Sholler and Luke Edwards will be joined by Cole McCallister who’s also back in the secondary. “Skyler returns for his third season as our middle linebacker,” Phillian said. “The experience he’s gained at that spot the past two years will be very valuable. Luke’s an athletic linebacker who can play at either linebacker or in the secondary. Cole does a great job from his cornerback position. He’s outstanding in man coverage and also has great range when asked to play in a zone. I think the key with these three is that they play in the second and third levels. That is where the majority of the communication on defense takes place. We will rely on these three to lead the defense’s communication and ensure that all eleven members of the defense are on the same page.”
2020 Class 2A Region 1 Standings
Wilmington – 6-0 (10-1)
Farrell – 4-2 (5-3)
Sharpsville – 3-4 (3-5)
Grenville – 0-7 (0-8)
Aug. 27 – Reynolds
Sept. 3 – at West Middlesex
Sept. 10 – at Oil City
Sept. 17 – at Greenville
Sept. 24 – Lakeview
Oct. 1 – at Sharpsville
Oct. 8 – Farrell
Oct. 15 – Kennedy Catholic
Oct. 22 – at Mercer