The Wilmington High football team rode an experienced roster to the past two PIAA Class 2A championship games.
With younger and newer personnel, the expectations still remain high for the Greyhounds.
“These guys have a great attitude. There is a great hunger and desire to build on a solid foundation we have in our program. I am very pleased with the effort and preparation on this team, so far,” second-year Wilmington coach Brandon Phillian said. “This group of seniors is a quality group, too. They want to make their mark and create their own legacy. You can see that starting to take place already.”
A year ago, Wilmington had very few holes to fill. This season, it’s a different story as only three starters return on both sides of the ball. However, the ’Hounds believe that is a positive.
“What that does is provide motivation for every player on the team. Last year, realistically, we had three spots open. This year, we have eight. Guys are competing every single day at practice,” Phillian said. “This group is exceptionally coachable. We’re pushing them hard because we have a number of spots to fill, but they are a really taking everything in and working hard. We enjoy working with them each and every practice.”
While Wilmington may have several new varsity starters, many players got significant playing time over the past couple seasons because the squad’s games were usually out of reach in the second half.
“That’s a huge advantage. Even though they are maybe new to the starting lineup, they have had under-the-light experience,” Phillian said. “That will serve us well moving forward this year.”
That was evident in the offseason when the squad adjusted quickly.
“I think a lot of people this year thought we’d have to scale things back on offense and defense. Even the coaches weren’t sure in the offseason,” Phillian said. “I give so much credit to our kids because they have proven to us that I don’t think we have to. They have shown they are capable of handling the same scheme and system we had in place a year ago.”
On offense, Caelan Bender takes over at quarterback.
“We are confident in his ability to lead the offense at the quarterback position,” Phillian said.
Ethan Susen returns to run the ball. He racked up 887 yards last season. Darren Miller, Luke Edwards and Henry Behm will see carries, too. Junior McConahy returns as the primary receiver, while Shane Cox is at tight end.
“We’re excited about getting the ball in their hands and seeing what they can do,” Phillian said.
Weston Phanco returns to anchor the offensive line. Lettermen Jake Chimiak, Connor Vass-Gal, Morgan Whiting, Jon Takash and Marcus Tokar, as well as Colton Huston, Brody Miller and Xavier McDonald will see time on the offensive line.
McConahy, Whiting, Chimiak, Vass-Gal, Takash, Tokar and Houston are on the defensive line. Shane Cox returns to lead the linebackers. Miller and Behm will see time there as well. Susen returns at cornerback, while Braxton Shimrack, Mason Reed, Bender and Edwards will play in the secondary, too.