Last season the Wilcox Chargers football team nearly pulled off a victory in the state championship game after trailing 21-0. Objectively speaking, they should have been awarded the championship trophy. A phantom holding penalty on a would-have-been, game-ending interception by then sophomore linebacker Jeramiah Lewis negated the turnover. Scripps Ranch eventually scored a last second touchdown to defeat Wilcox 31-28. Fortunately for Wilcox Football and their fans, the team is returning numerous key starters at all levels of the offense and defense.
“I don’t think you ever get over that one,” remarked Wilcox Football Head Coach Paul Rosa after Tuesday’s practice. “I appreciated the way our team came back. Watching the game on film later kind of made it worse because of some of the bad calls that were made. Overall, I was very proud of that team coming back though from down 21.”
“Oh yeah, of course,” confirmed Lewis on whether knowing they would have a strong team coming back made moving on from last year’s loss a bit easier. “A loss like that in state, that’s a game you’ll never get back, but knowing my teammates coming back now have that experience, I know we are going to be strong this season.”
“I would say it did,” added senior running back and linebacker Andrew Palacios on the strength of this year’s team helping guys move on from the loss. “I still don’t know if I’m really over it, but it has gotten easier. It’s good knowing now that we are a more experienced, older team, we’re feeling good going into the season now.”
As a run-based offense, a big key for the Chargers in their attempt to run it back to another state title game is the offensive line. Wilcox returns four out of their five starters from last year, including hulking tackle Justin Hylkema, listed at 6’7” and 300 pounds.
“It’s huge, especially with our offense and the way we run,” noted Palacios on returning the majority of the offensive line. “Having pretty much all our offensive line coming back is huge because really it’s the offensive line that are the people that get us yards.”
Also helping the offense get yards will be quarterback Armand Johnson. For the first time in over four years, the Chargers bring back their starting quarterback from the previous season. With Johnson’s dual-threat abilities, the strong offensive line and Palacios returning at running back, the offense should be, at minimum, just as strong as last season. The same can be said for the defense.
Not only does Lewis return as middle linebacker, but defensive lineman Ty Jeter is back for his senior year. Jeter was a menace to opposing offensive lines all season and particularly throughout the Chargers’ playoff run a year ago. At the secondary level, Bryan Escorza returns at strong safety and the versatile Elijah Walker at corner. Walker also serves as an elite return man on special teams and works into the rotation on offense at running back.
Wilcox running it back to another state championship game certainly seems to be a strong possibility this season. For now, though, the team is saying all the right things about taking it one game at a time. As per usual, the Chargers start the season with a tough test against Valley Christian on Friday, Aug. 26.