Ahead of Wheeler’s spring football game, new coach Bryan Love had individual meetings with all 28 of his seniors.
“I talked to them about their offseason goals, the recruiting process, whether they planned to go to college or not,” Love said. “When you come in as a new coach and want to establish a rapport with them, you want to make sure you let the seniors know that they will be made a priority. This is their last high school football season.”
Last season, Wheeler started 5-0 and was ranked for the first time in more than two decades, before losing four of its last five to miss the playoffs.
Since being hired in February, Love and the Wildcats coaching staff have focused on gauging the talent on the field and on the roster.
“I wanted to assess what the kids could do well so we could adjust our game plan around what they can do well going into summer and fall,” Love said. “Physically and mentally, I wanted to see what they were capable of.”
The former Woodland coach was respectful of the players who were already established in their habits, both to respect seniority and because the seniors showcased honorable effort.
“They have a very strong work ethic,” Love said. “This senior class is very driven in workouts and our mat sessions that were very important, that was very apparent.”
Love was pleasantly surprised by what he saw on the field, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Wheeler defense returns nine starters from last season’s 6-4 team.
“We’re only practicing a short time, but I was really pleased with the kids effort, especially defensively,” Love said. “The kids ran to the ball well, the communication, I was very pleased.”
On offense, the Wildcats are led by senior three-star wide receiver Ricky White who had 55 receptions for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But as important as working and improving the X’s and O’s is to Love, he is just as eager to work on his players character and give them life lessons.
“Do I want to be good at football? Yes, but at the end of the day, it’s about these seniors and giving them skills that they will be able to take with them as they go on through life,” Love said. “If you do those things right, then the wins will come.”