Wellington missed the playoffs for the first time in 20 years in 2011, but with the right players taking the right steps, the Crusaders could easily find themselves back on the field in November.
Coach: Tyler Ryan (First year as head coach of Wellington, 9-9 in two years at Wichita Trinity)
2011 Recap: 3-6 overall, missed playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
2012 District: Clearwater, Mulvane, Winfield
Returning Starters: 4 Offense, 6 Defense
Key Returning Players: Noah Wolff (OL/DE), Chris Loughmiller (OL/DE), Mitch Norris (OL), Alex Weiss (WR/DB), Colan Macais (DB), Ian Stallbaumer (LB), Austin Loyd (LB)
The strength of the Wellington offense in 2011 was on the ground, but they showed a big-play ability through the air. The team averaged 35 yards per completion on the year, but only threw it 16 times. With the return of first-team all-league wide receiver Alex Weiss and Nick Becker at quarterback, there should be anticipation of more production in Wellington’s passing game.
The Crusaders return an experienced offensive line that includes Noah Wolff, an all-league honorable mention selection. Chris Loughmiller and Mitch Norris will help bolster the offensive line with Wolff. All three are seniors and physically big. If the offensive line can step up and do well this year, that will lead to success not only in the air but on the ground, too.
Wellington gained just 960 yards on the year, but still won three games. Obviously, the offense needs to improve on both those numbers. Its wins came against Andale, Circle and Ark City. Those three teams went a combined 12-18 and made the playoffs. The Crusaders averaged 38 points in those three wins.
This is a group that can score points in a shootout, but doesn’t always finish the job. Wellington is going to have to learn to finish those high-scoring games to get wins and restart the playoff streak.
Wellington allowed 31 points per game in 2011, but with a more mature and experienced group of players on the defensive side, that number should be significantly lower in 2012. Exactly like its offensive counterparts, every returning starter in 2012 is a senior.
This senior-laden squad has been a part of the streak, so it will be hungry to get back to the chilly November nights of playoff football. For it to do that, though, the Crusader defense will have to find a way to diminish yards gained against it. 1,926 total yards were allowed in 2011, almost 1,000 yards more than Wellington’s offense gained. The Crusaders can’t afford to give up that kind of ground and expect to win more than the three games it won in 2011.
Its pass defense was stout as it allowed just 446 total yards through the air, but where the pass defense was stout, the run defense was porous. Wellington allowed 7.6 yards per carry, so almost every time an opponent carried the ball it nearly gained a first down.
However, this is a group that has experience the stoutness of a solid pass defense and the porousness of a run defense. It will know what its mistakes are and what it needs to not improve, but fix them. Expect a much improved Wellington defense in 2012.
ODDS AND ENDS:
Wellington missed the playoffs for the first time in 20 years in 2011, so this group is ready to prove that it was merely a fluke. This is a senior-laden team, so those seniors know what kind of tradition and respect is held for playing in November, so a lot of pressure rides on the upperclassmen of this team to lead their fellow Crusaders into battle in late October.
Wellington did win one more game in 2011 than it did in 2010, so if it continues that trend, the Crusaders should be in good shape to return to the 4A playoffs in November.
It is going to have to fight hard to return, though. The Crusaders face a tough district that features perennial power Mulvane and a Clearwater team that had a tremendous 2011 season. Winfield is no slouch, either, as it consistently finishes in the middle of the pack of AVCTL Div. III. This will be an interesting year for Wellington.
All-state player Taylon Ybarra has graduated, and finding a replacement for him could be near impossible. Often times one player can’t replace the production of an all-state selection which is the case for Wellington, but what can happen is a group of players can combine to reproduce the performance. It’s not always pretty, but it can be done.