“My hat’s off to (the senior class) for staying at Wheeler and preserving though the hard times,” said Wheeler coach Mike Collins. “To buy into what we were trying to sell them and come out and have a winning season for the first time in six years.
“They’ll always be remembered at Wheeler High School for what they’ve done.”
What they did was face last year’s Class AAAAA state champions on their home field and had a chance early.
After the Rams’ David Fennell took the game’s first play from scrimmage up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown, Wheeler (6-5) had a chance to answer.
Elijah Staley started the night with a short completion, then avoided the rush and went for it all three plays later. A streaking Billy Polakowski was open on the sideline, but the pass glanced off his fingertips and the Wildcats ended up punting.
“We were trying to avoid a big play early like that and I knew that wasn’t going to be good for us in this environment,” Collins said. “But we had a chance to make a couple of plays early that could have kept us in the game.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make those plays, but the good thing is those kids will be back next year.”
They won’t have to see Grayson’s Wayne Gallman. The senior running back would score the next three touchdowns for the Rams (10-1), including a 52-yard touchdown pass from David McTier.
“I thought our kids played well, moved the ball well,” Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. “I’d like to see us play with a little more enthusiasm though.”
Gallman’s third touchdown of the night ended any enthusiasm from Staley’s lone touchdown pass, a perfect pitch and toss to a wide-open Emanuel Beal in the middle of the field. The junior wideout raced untouched for a 57-yard touchdown, but the Wildcats still trailed 35-6 at the half.
They would only add a 22-yard field goal from senior JD Barron, but the additional experience of playing in the postseason and finishing with a winning record will always be there.
“We’re glad to be able to play an 11th game and now we know where the measuring stick is,” said Collins. “We’ve been here, we know what we’re up against and we know where we got to be if we want to get back here.”