Searching for a new identity after playing in two straight Division I state championship appearances, Wayne didn’t find any answers in last week’s season-opening tie. But that all changed in an early season-defining Week 2 defeat of mighty Moeller on Friday night.
Boosted by a shutdown defense and a breakout performance by sophomore quarterback Rashad McKee, Wayne whacked Moeller 35-17 before a capacity crowd at Heidkamp Stadium. It was the third straight defeat of Moeller by Wayne in a matchup of two of the best Division I programs in the Southwest District.
“Before the game we talked about identifying and how championship teams develop their identity,” Wayne coach Jay Minton said. “What’s ours going to be? After Week 1 we didn’t have one. Coming into a great Moeller team without an identity scared me. We just challenged them.”
McKee was up to that challenge. He won a spirited battle during preseason camp to become the starter and then responded against a playoff-tested opponent: 16 of 25 passing for 246 yards and three touchdowns. When he wasn’t finding the open receiver, it was Fred Pitts pounding for 181 yards rushing and another score on a 50-yard dash.
Those numbers McKee put up were more like the string of outstanding Wayne QB’s that he’s followed. The only difference is it came in his second career start.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was something I’ve dreamed of since I was little. Just being out there in front of a whole bunch of fans, it was unbelievable.”
Moeller leaned on Wayne outstanding junior receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith (five catches; 84 yards). But that left plenty of one-on-one mismatches and the Warriors delivered. McKee fired touchdown strikes to Ray James (44 yards), Steve Victoria (25) and Trew Davis (7).
Wayne also had an interception returned 50 yards for a score by defensive back DeWayne Morris following a Moeller 28-yard field goal to open first-quarter scoring.
“They double-teamed me at the end, but that opened my other teammates,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re all about. If anybody locks me down it opens up my teammates.”
Wayne tied Archbishop Wood (Pa.) 21-all in an abbreviated opener last week that was called before halftime because of lightning delays. Wayne also beat Moeller 29-22 in a 2014 D-I state semifinal and 24-22 in Week 2 last season.
Moeller (1-1) had 32 yards rushing. Crusaders QB Evan Ernst completed 15 of 26 passes for 142 yards.
“We got a long way to go,” Minton said. “One favorite game like this doesn’t do it for you, but it sure puts you on your way.”