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Eagles facing unknown in 2020 as an independent

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

Sometimes a difficult choice has to be made for the good of the program. The Wilson High School football team faced that predicament when deciding whether to make the move to Class A or remain in eight-man football.   

“We actually allowed the kids to be part of the decision,” said Eagles head coach Kenny Ridley. “We had a meeting with all of the squad members and laid the cards out on the table and said, “Here’s what the deal is.’ By and large, all of our kids really enjoy playing eight-man football and we feel that’s a great place for our program to be.” 

However, there is one negative as the Wilson juniors and seniors won’t get to experience the playoffs or the chance to win a state title since it is an independent eight-man team. 

The Eagles can only play 10 games and then the season is over, but there are still a few open slots on the schedule during Weeks 8 and 9. 

“With the way things are, we even have the flexibility to maybe play a couple of 11-man games against area JV squads,” Ridley said. “… The thought process is – not only with COVID, but with enrollment, if a school doesn’t have enough kids to play, they’d suspend their season and we may step in and assume some of their schedule. We kind of left it open.” 

That doesn’t mean Wilson is running away from tougher competition, as Ridley said the Eagles will take on anybody they can.  

“We’re to the point to where we’re just excited about the opportunity to compete,” he said. 

And Wilson will do so with a group that is well-balanced in all three phases of the game. Ridley is excited about that, as well as the squad’s football knowledge.  

“We may not have the All-State player or the Division 1 type talent, but I think we have some kids who are versatile, who will be able to do a lot of things and they think on their feet very well,” he said. “From a coaching standpoint, we’ll be better at making adjustments than what we have been.” 

The Eagles will also have a few unfamiliar faces that may add some things to what they’re trying to do as a team. 

“We had a young man who moved in last year who wasn’t eligible as a transfer named Tucker Nail that will be a junior,” Ridley said. “Tucker is a really dynamic, natural leader and super smart. He’s one of those utility-knife type kids who we can do a whole lot with.” 

Meanwhile, the quarterback position is still a battle as Wilson targeted a few athletes to replace Logan Schaaf. 

“We feel really good about it,” Ridley said. “Whereas we may not have the explosiveness or playmaking ability that Logan had, we’re going to have kids who understand why a little bit more. We’re excited about the potential we have at the quarterback position.” 

Collin Wharton is one of those guys and Ridley expects the basketball player to challenge for a starting role and step in and replace Schaaf. 

Only time will tell who will be under center when the Eagles host Cyril at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, but one thing is for sure, it will be a grueling season. 

“Our schedule should be pretty challenging,” Ridley said. “I don’t think there’ll be any weeks off, necessarily. But there’s nobody necessarily that we have circled. We’re just crossing our fingers that we can hold out and continue to play this season.”