Ten years ago, Shane Ankney spent his time following Wayne High School’s loss in the Division I state football final youthfully running around on the Fawcett Stadium field.
Ankney’s brother, Brian, was the starting middle linebacker on that team, which became one of only two area programs, including Centerville in 1991, to play in a big-school state football final.
Wayne coach Jay Minton had not since explicitly told his players that the state championship game was a main goal.
“Now,” said Shane Ankney, also a starting linebacker, “it’s stated.”
From the meeting room countdown clock ticking away the seconds until the championship game begins to the motto “Finish the Journey” printed on game plans, Wayne and Minton have underlined the importance of reaching the championship game 10 years later. To aid in that goal, the Warriors will again travel to Canton on Saturday, Sept. 5, only this time for a regular-season game against state power Canton McKinley.
As much as facing a strong opponent, Minton said he scheduled the game so his players can view the atmosphere of the stadium that will host the D-I final at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5.
“I’ve always been a little leery of doing that, because you have to take care of this and this and this and this (before the title game), and it’s so hard to get out of our region,” Minton said. “But you need that ultimate goal, that desire to get there. And this is one of those steps to help us get there, both the game and the venue.”
Minton said he discovered in the offseason that McKinley and Wayne had the same open date, so he set the game. He added the countdown clock to the meeting room to keep the championship game on players’ minds.
“I felt like we were stagnant,” Minton said. “I’m proud of the program, very proud, but we need to take a step.”