FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Wabash eyes return to postseason

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Anything short of a postseason berth will be a disappointment for the Wabash football team this fall. 

Don Morel enters his fourth season at the helm of the Little Giants with a record of 25-5, yet still playoff chances.

“Long before me there were three goals set for Wabash football,” he said. “No. 1 is to win the Monon Bell Game — two is to win the conference championship, and then a national championship, which involves the playoff.”

After a 9-1 season in 2018, there is very little doubt the Little Giants are poised to make a postseason run. Wabash was picked to win the North Coast Athletic Conference by the coaches, and enters the season ranked No. 23 in Division III.

 Nearly Everybody Back

To say the Little Giants return a lot of starters would be an understatement. A total of 15 starters return, including six on offense, and nine on defense. Jake Reid returns for his senior season at quarterback, after throwing for 1,859 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.

Isaac Avant had a breakout season in 2018, running for 1,247 yards and scoring 10 times en route to an all-conference nod. Ra’Shawn Jones is also back after setting a school record for yards-per-catch. Up front the Little Giants return offensive linemen Jake Slager, Connor Phelps, Dane Smith, and tight end Ivan Martinez.

Blair Broady, Don Schuch, Jackson Garrett, Brock Heffron, Brandon Yeagy, Patrick Kelly, Jose Franco, Artie Equihua, and Jake Page all return as defensive starters.

“We have 17 starters back, which is tremendous,” Morel said. “Really good starting group back. They have weathered incredible storms and they look forward to getting back here and get going again.”

 Return Of James

In 2017 Ike James rushed for 1,349 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. The tailback from Lowell is back this season after suffering a knee injury last fall. And getting him and Avant in the backfield at the same time will be crucial for the Little Giants.

“Isaac’s just a great team player,” Morel said of Avant. “He’s excitement in a bottle. We’re going to figure out a way to get both of those guys on the field at the same time.”

 Eyes On The Prize

While winning the last regular season game of the year against DePauw is always the most important, Morel and the Little Giants have their eyes on winning every single game on the schedule.

“I think this team has lofty goals and certainly we want to go to the playoffs and do well,” Morel said. “This will sound like a cliche’ that every game counts, but the league has gotten more competitive and we have to be ready for that.”

Morel is excited about the upcoming season, and puts the entire team in very high regards.

“I can’t wait to get everybody back in here,” he said. “It’s competitive for playing time so those guys will work themselves into shape. They are phenomenal young men.”

“In this day in age, what guy picks a school with ridiculously hard academics, Crawfordsville, Indiana, and all-male,” he said. “What 18 year picks that school. Well the special dudes that we get here. They want to be here, and they’re excited about it.”

 The Schedule

Wabash opens the season on the road at Wisconsin—Steven Point on Sep. 14, and will get visits from Denison on Sep. 28, and Wittenberg on Oct. 19. The Little Giants close the regular season at DePauw with the 126th Monon Bell Classic on Nov. 16.

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