Wayne’s Wagner seeks title in football swan song

On Friday the senior will sign a national letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Iowa. His future is snaring rebounds, making put-backs and aiming for Big Ten titles. His heart is helping Wayne load up for an elusive state football championship.

“We have the talent and the mindset to go all the way,” said the 6-foot-6 wide receiver. “That’s what we’re trying to do for Huber Heights and the (Greater Western Ohio Conference).”

Wayne (10-1) will play Dublin Coffman (11-0) in the second round of the Division I, Region 2 football playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bellefontaine.

This is the first day of the week-long early signing period for most sports except football. Wayne 6-7 senior teammate Xeyrius Williams (Dayton) also will sign to play basketball.

Wayne’s football roster was loaded with key returnees in quarterback D’Mitrik Trice, defensive lineman Robert Landers (West Virginia), defensive back Tyree Kinnel (Michigan) and receiver Chad Swanson. Then came Wagner.

Originally a football standout at many positions since his peewee days, Wagner didn’t play football as a freshman and junior, opting to focus on basketball instead. Always a big and physical playmaker, Wagner wasn’t certain he could help the Warriors this season.

“I was like, son, you’re nuts,” recalled Warriors football coach Jay Minton, laughing. “That’s the kind of young man that he is. He doesn’t know what he has.”

What Wayne has is a go-to receiver who was good for 40 catches, 639 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. He’s also willing to unload crushing crack-back blocks.

“It’s a great privilege to have a 6-6 receiver with the attitude that he has and what he brings to the table,” Trice said. “He’s a great asset.”

Wayne basketball coach Travis Trice, D’Mitrik’s father, was on board with Wagner returning to football. So was Iowa.

“The Iowa coaches just told me to protect myself and don’t get hurt,” Wagner said. “They always ask me how my games are going. My parents were really excited, too. Everybody was high-spirited about it.”

Wayne is the last GWOC D-I team remaining in the playoffs. The Warriors went three games into the postseason last year and are geared up for an encore championship run.

If the Warriors do that, it’ll mean a long delay to the start of an equally anticipated boys basketball season. Wayne is a consensus basketball preseason No. 1 in the state by most internet services and nationally ranked by many websites.

At least seven and maybe eight projected Wayne basketball players are on the football team.

“It’s a great experience for the guys,” Travis Trice said. “Football is just as important for some of them as basketball is. We’ll manage and work around it and keep supporting them all the way through the tournament.”

Regardless how this football season plays out for Wayne, Wagner will hang up his cleats, although he’s said that before. “This is it,” he said, laughing. “It’s on to basketball.”

  • Tickets to all of Friday and Saturdays football playoff games are $8 presale and $9 at the gate. Participating schools collect 20 percent of the presale proceeds and none at the gate. All participating schools have tickets for sale during normal school hours.
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