The Wilson Tigers football team enters the upcoming 2017 season surrounded by uncertainty. Last season proved a success, as the Tigers went 9-2 and made it to the Turkey Bowl, but fell short yet again. The Tigers squad was led by All-Met selections, Sean Savoy, Steven Williams Jr., and Khaleb Coleman, it was inevitable that there would be high expectations. Everything was going to plan, as the Tigers were well on their way to winning the Turkey Bowl after so many years of being so close. Then in the penultimate game of the season, star quarterback Steven Williams broke his thumb, leaving many ‘What if’s’. The Tigers were unable to finally win the Turkey Bowl, losing 22-20 but putting up a memorable fight. The season was still a success nonetheless.
This upcoming season brings an aroma of uncertainty with it. After losing a big senior class, along with two important pieces of the team in sophomore quarterback Malakai Anthony (transferred to St. John’s) and stud safety Sevin Beasley (transferred to Bullis) there is a lot of confusion about what to expect from this years team.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding the Tigers, former star Sean Savoy, who is now about to embark on his freshman season with Virginia Tech, thinks that the Tigers, “will have another shot at the championship,” but adds, “they have to be a very fundamental team with less mistakes because they are at a disadvantage without having a quarterback.”
Last year Malakai Anthony backed up Steven Williams Jr. but with his transfer, the door for the starting quarterback spot is wide open. Like Savoy, Steven “Stevie” Williams Jr. expects that the Tigers will “compete for a Turkey Bowl this year,” but also adds doubt about the offense as he said, “I don’t really know what is going on the offense this year but I expect [Coach Mark Martin] to put our best athletes in good position to help the team win.”
Currently, junior WR/DB/QB Quincy Barber and junior WR/DB/QB Zayaan Cobb are competing for the starting quarterback job. Barber said about the competition for the starting job, “we take it day by day… whoever gives us the best chance to win will start.” Barber feels poised to step up and be a leader for the Tigers this season, “this year’s team has a lot more ownership and leadership on our team and we will not accept failure.” Senior kicker Pablo Gudiel preached a similar mentality for the team, “I think this year’s team will be a lot more different from last years team because of the fact that we lost so many seniors that we need more players to step up.”
One part of the offense that has remained unchanged is the running game. Junior Amir Gerald will lead the rushing attack. Gerald is coming off a good season in which he rushed for 603 yards and 11 touchdowns. The running back stated that, “we aren’t a passing team anymore, we solidified our team as a running team.” Gerald will have to step up this season for the Tigers to be successful, his outlook is to, “stay focused and remember what the ultimate goal is and that is to prepare for college and win the championship.” Senior Anton Reed will be the 3rd down back this season. Reed rushed for 359 yards and 6 touchdowns this past season. •
The offensive line will have to be very good this season for the Tigers to have a good running game. Junior OL Eddie Sincyr expects improvement, “last year we were a passing team with an average defense but this year we are going to have a running offense and our defense will be way better this year.”
Senior’s Emon Flemming and Jalon Rowe will lead a strong group of wide receivers. Flemming will attempt to fill the shoes of last year’s standout receiver’s, Khaleb Coleman and Sean Savoy. Current Liberty University wide receiver and a leader of last year’s team Khaleb Coleman is confident in Emon Flemming, “He will do great. He’s a been working really hard and is a good player.” Both Flemming and Rowe will have to prove themselves this year to be vital alongside confusion with the quarterback position. When Quincy Barber is not completing duties at quarterback, he has proven himself to be a very good receiver, so he should haul in many receptions. The 3 of them will join Isaiah Hall on the depth chart.
On the other side of the ball, the Wilson Tigers will be hoping to repeat their successes from last year. Building on 3 shutouts last season, the Tigers were crucial to last years team and may be even more crucial to perform well this year after a mass exodus of offensive players. With safety Sevin Beasley’s departure via transfer to Bullis, the defense still looks poised for success lead by a senior trio of linebacker Anton Reed, defensive back Lonell Rowell, and transfer linebacker Derek Stephens.
The Wilson Tigers are led by Coach Mark Martin, who has experienced continued success as the head coach of Wilson football. Even with a very different team, former wide receiver Khaleb Coleman is extremely confident in Coach Martin’s ability, “Coach Mark being the great coach that he is will use some things from last year but will probably come up with some new things,” Coleman said.
The offseason was extremely important so the Tigers could “gel and get better team chemistry,” junior Eddie Sincyr said. Preseason has gone well by all accounts but senior kicker Pablo Gudiel believes that the major improvement will not happen until official games are played, “we will become better throughout the season by figuring out what we need to fix more in practice by looking at the tapes after the games.”
The Wilson Tigers embark on their season at home versus the Friendship Collegiate Knights on August 26th at 5pm. •
PHOTO BY ALEX MARTIN