This is the first in a series of articles that will appear over the next two weeks as the Pirates prepare to showcase their talents in the May 24 spring game.
It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of any successful team’s offensive front. Those five young men set the tone for everything an offense does well, and the Pirates have a young, but good-looking group each working hard to secure a role for the fall.
Laurent Njiki, who will be a junior in the fall, is the only returning starter from a 2011 squad that was senior heavy on the offensive and defensive lines. Njiki is a sharp-minded athlete who has added size and strength since his inaugural varsity season. He has all the tools to be a premiere player.
Eric Betancourt, Dillon Bayless and John Copley are the only seniors-to-be in the group.
Betancourt gathered some varsity experience last fall and is competing for one of the tackle spots. Ryan Reynolds and Carlos Sanchez are also working for a role there.
Bayless, along with Victor Cheatham, Gabriel Imo and Brody Wright are under consideration at guard.
Copley has taken the majority of snaps at center, while Wright has also lined up in the spot.
Offensive line coach Roger Byrd said, there are “good, positive battles each day,” but the starting front won’t be set until August. That’s good news for several players who could be in the mix but are currently out with injury. Castin Neumeyer, Matthew Loomis, Alex Garza and Christian Elliott will have to make their best case once August two-a-days get under way.
Byrd said, “We have quite a few young men fighting for spots. They are dedicated to the program. They’re working real hard. The effort is there.”
Crossovers from the defensive side who are also under consideration on offensive line are K.J. Rausaw, Greyson Williams, Israel Acuay and Marc Guerra.
Byrd said camaraderie, the ability to work within a group, is the main thing he’s looking for as he considers which players will take over starting roles.
In addition to good chemistry within the group, Byrd said, “There are two things we put our hat on: for the running back, room to run; and for the quarterback, time to throw. Those are the two things we are always trying to achieve.”
Senior first baseman Mary Stephens grabbed District 10-4A MVP honors as voted by the district coaches. Against district opponents, Stephens batted .564 and reached base 75 percent of the time. She posted 22 hits and 28 RBIs on 14 singles, three doubles, two triples, three homeruns, 18 walks and no strikeouts. Defensively, her fielding success was 98 percent.
First-team honors went to senior centerfielder Alisa Hamilton, junior pitcher Meagan Richardson, junior catcher Ashlyn Pair, and freshman third baseman Serena Saldivar.
Second-team recognition went to shortstop Megan Slocum and leftfielder/second baseman Anna Saldivar, both juniors. Senior catcher Maddy Cook, who saw limited action due to injury, garnered honorable mention.
Eight players were acknowledged for success in the classroom and are listed among academic all-district recipients. They are Stephens, Richardson, Pair, Slocum, Anna Saldivar, Cook, Cheyenne Gehring and Emily Aldous.
Wylie finished the season as district runner up with a 12-2 record. They were crowned bi-district champs with a sweep of Frisco and earned the area crown with a win over Dallas Molina. They were knocked out of the playoffs in the third round by Frisco Wakeland.
Infielder and pitcher Drew Feuerbacher has signed with the Tigers of Ouachita Baptist University. OBU, located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, is an NCAA Division II university competing in the Great American Conference. Parents are Brad and Belinda Feuerbacher.
Pitcher Robbie Petty has signed to play for the Bearcats of Lon Morris College. LMC is located in Jacksonville, Texas and competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Parents are Todd and Heather Petty.
Wrestler Gus Kortemeier, who competes in the 132-pound weight class, has claimed state titles in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling at the prestigious Texas USA Wrestling State Championships held May 19-20 at Lewisville High School. The feat included a victory over a four-time UIL state champion.
The senior now moves on to the USA Freestyle/Greco-Roman Junior National Championships, which will be held July 11-22 in Fargo, North Dakota. Kortemeier committed to Pratt Community College earlier this month.
The annual spring game kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wylie Stadium.
The maroon team coached by DC Jimmy Carter faces off against the white team coached by OC Royce Slechta. The teams will play four, non-stop, 15-minute quarters with a brief halftime break.
Varsity cheerleaders will be introduced prior to kickoff of the varsity game. Sponsors of the Pirates new football website (www.wyliepiratefootball.mobi) will be announced at halftime, as well as introductions of TWB drum majors, Pacesetter officers, and AFJROTC officers.
The freshmen scrimmage begins at 5 p.m. and will feature two 15-minute halves. Freshmen and JV cheerleaders will be introduced during this game.
There is no fee for admission; however, fans are asked to support the Wylie Christian Care Center with a donation of food or cash. Current needs are peanut butter, jelly, small bottles of cooking oil and canned vegetables.
Third baseman and pitcher Drew Feuerbacher was named team MVP for the 2012 season.
Second-baseman Cade Calhoun was honored as offensive MVP, and pitcher Robbie Petty received defensive MVP honors.
The AHMO award was presented to catcher Cody Dahl.
All four are seniors.
Chili’s Wylie hosted Tuesday's spirit night event to show their support for the Wylie Pirate Football program. Thanks Chili's!
Seniors Mary Stephens and Alisa Hamilton were named co-MVPs at Monday’s softball banquet.
Stephens also grabbed honors as offensive player of the year and Pirate Award recipient. Throughout her high school career, the first baseman was consistently among the most productive hitters in the DFW area. An all-around standout, she was also a tremendous defensive player and team leader.
Hamilton was a lefty slapper who batted leadoff. She used her explosive speed to elevate her on-base percentage and to make exceptional defensive plays in centerfield.
Both players were four-year starters at their respective positions.
Junior Meagan Richardson was chosen defensive player of the year, junior Anna Saldivar was honored with the Hustle Award and junior Cheyenne Gehring was recognized as most improved.
Pictured: shortstop Megan Slocum
The Lady Pirates were bumped out of the Class 4A playoffs with Saturday's 11-0 loss to Frisco Wakeland.
In other local playoff action, District 10-4A champion Rockwall clipped district rival McKinney 6-4 in the regional quarterfinals. The Lady Jackets face Forney in the regional semifinal.
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As the Pirates enter the second week of spring ball, head coach Bill Howard said he is “highly encouraged” by what he has seen so far.
Coaches are taking a slightly different approach to season preparation than they have in years past with the introduction of “crossover” training.
Players spend most of each practice sharpening skills in their primary position, but then add in prep time for a second position as well. For the most part, it’s just the logical move to other side of the ball. Linemen switch sides, linebackers turn into tailbacks, receivers step into the secondary, and vice versa.
Howard said, “When somebody does get hurt, or does get tired, or you need to rotate, your skill level doesn’t drop off as far. Building depth is important for a tough district and a long season, especially going into the playoffs.”
While the goal may be to build depth at all positions, there are subsidiary benefits.
“Offensive players get a better understanding of defense; defense gets a better understanding of offense. It gives the kids a good idea of what both sides are going through. I hope it’s making us a better team,” said Howard.
Preston Burnett, a junior who started in the secondary last fall, said the crossover training helps him identify with what his opponent is thinking, and he said it actually makes him a better player in his primary position.
In the end, Howard said, “We have a lot of kids who are going to be able to help us on both sides of the ball which gives us a lot more depth. I think we are going to be able to come out with 22 starters who don’t have to play both sides of the ball, but most of the backups will be playing both sides of the ball.”
Pictured: Ashlyn Pair, Emily Aldous
Wylie plays Frisco Wakeland in a regional quarterfinal match, at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at McKinney Boyd HS. Tickets are $3 students; $5 adults.
Pictured: Pitcher Meagan Richardson
Wylie clipped Dallas Molina 15-0 in five innings in Friday's single game playoff. Serena Saldivar smacked a home run; Mary Stephens recorded a double. Meagan Richardson was the winning pitcher.
The Lady Pirates will meet Frisco Wakeland in the regional quarterfinals. The one-game playoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 11, at Lovejoy. Wylie will be visitors.
Tickets are $3 students, $5 adults.
In other playoff action, Rockwall walloped Seagoville 21-0, and McKinney defeated Hillcrest 17-0, 13-0 in a best-of-three series. Rockwall and McKinney will face off in the next round.
Pictured: Laurent Njiki, started all 10 games on o-line last fall
The Pirates return six starters on the offensive side of the ball, plus 10 others with varsity experience.
It starts up front with Laurent Njiki. The big offensive lineman, who will be a junior this fall, started every game on the left side in 2011. There will be some big shoes to fill on that line with multiple players moving into the college ranks, but a promising group of candidates are already lining up to grab a spot.
A receiving corps that returns five experienced athletes should be an area of strength. Freddy Gibbs, Alex Pina-Rhoden and Alex Wesley all started multiple games for the Pirates last season. Gibbs will be in his third year as a starter. All three have good height with long arms and good hands. Also in the good-hands category is Kalen Winkler, who had his share of minutes at receiver, while also serving as a solid punter and the holder on PATs. Throw in Leland Dotson who had significant reps at receiver as well.
Kameron Kelly, who enters his junior year in the fall, stepped in at quarterback for the Pirates last five games of 2011. Having come up from JV Black in his initial varsity appearance, Kelly led the Pirates to a near upset of Highland Park. Jacob Polvado will compete with Kelly for the starting role. In any case, both athletes will have a place on the Friday night grass.
Tailback Gary Bailey was used primarily as a second back last season but did get a share of starts at the position. He will compete for minutes with a very athletic group of newcomers.
Additional reports will be forthcoming as spring football progresses and things start to shake out for the fall roster assignments. Check back daily for the latest Pirates football news.
The Pirates defense returns six starters from the 2011 squad
Pictured: K.J. Rausaw works against an opposing o-linemen last fall
The Pirates will return six defensive starters from the 2011 squad.
Most of that experience is bundled in the secondary with Preston Burnett, Joseph Ewing, Jarell Brown and T’Kevian Rockwell coming into 2012 with significant varsity exposure. Three starters are lost to graduation, but because of the way the unit rotated players in and out during games last fall, there was plenty of time on the grass for the entire unit.
The defensive line will build around K.J. Rausaw who will earn his third varsity letter. Israel Acuay, who saw limited varsity action last season, could be a bright spot in the rebuilding process.
Returning starter Keith Lilly is the lone remainder among a linebacker corps that graduated three multi-year starters. Zach Myers, a returning letterman, gathered some Friday night experience last year as well.
Check back tomorrow for information on returning players on offense.
Spring Football is now underway. UIL allows Class 4A and 5A schools to conduct 18 practices over a period of 30 consecutive days in the spring. Visit this site regularly to get the scoop on how the Pirates are coming together and getting ready to make a run at the playoffs in 2012.
UIL has released the wrestling realignments for 2012-13.
Wylie dives into District 9 with just a couple of familiar foes in the new mix. With this realignment comes a major shift in UIL policy. In the past, Classes 4A and 5A have been lumped together into geographic bundles; however, with this new alignment comes a split between classifications.
That means Wylie will no longer face those large-enrollment Class 5A schools at the district and regional levels. The Richardson schools and Dallas Jesuit, formerly district-mates with the Pirates, have been slotted into a Class 5A district along with several Dallas ISD schools. In addition, Allen and the Plano schools won’t pose the roadblocks to state qualification they have been in the past.
Wylie, Wylie East and Highland Park are the only remnants from the old District 18. Those three will now be joined by Elkhart, Henderson, Lancaster, Lovejoy and McKinney North in District 9. Wrestling season begins the first week in November.
Pictured SS Megan Slocum, DH Maddy Cook
Wylie will face Dallas Molina out of District 11-4A in the second round of the playoffs.
The single game will be played at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 4, at Berkner High School (1600 E. Spring Valley Rd, Richardson, 75081).
Tickets are $3 for students and $5 for adults.
Playoff shirts are available for $10. Email head coach Heather Damron at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve one.
Former Pirates standout Chris Givens, a 2008 Wylie graduate, was selected by the St. Louis Rams with the first pick of the fourth round, chosen 96th overall.
Givens declared for the draft following his junior season at Wake Forest University. According to the WFU website, Givens "finished his 36-game career among Wake Forest's all-time receiving leaders with 163 career receptions (fourth in school history) for 2,473 yards (third) and 21 touchdowns (tied third)."
According to some scouting reports, Givens is expected to provide the Rams with a "legitimate vertical threat" on deep throws from QB Sam Bradford.
In the NFL combine in February, Givens 4.41 in the 40-yard dash was among the best for wide receivers.
Noble Nwachukwu punched his ticket to the state track and field meet in the discus with a throw of 157-feet, 4 inches. He was the runner-up in the event at the Region II meet.
Azuka Akozar hurled the shot 53-feet, 3-inches in Friday's Region 2 Track and Field Meet at UTA setting a new WHS record and qualifying for state. He finished second overall in the event. Field events for Class 4A teams at state are slated for May 11.
District 10-4A fared pretty well against their District 9-4A counterparts with three of four teams advancing into the next round.
Wylie dusted up Frisco (1-0, 17-5) and will face Dallas Molina in the area round. Playoff information will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.
District champ Rockwall beat Frisco Centennial (14-3, 9-1) and will face Seagoville in the next round. McKinney overcame a game-one loss to get past Carrollton Creekview (0-3, 2-1, 6-2) and draw Dallas Hillcrest for second-round action. McKinney North's season ended with losses to Frisco Wakeland (11-1, 17-1).
Pictured third-baseman Serena Saldivar
The Lady Pirates advance to the area round of the playoffs after nipping Frisco 1-0 in Friday's game one at home, and then routing the Lady Raccoons 17-5 in five run-ruled innings at their place Saturday.
Wylie scored six runs in the top of the first inning including a two-run homer by Maddy Cook. They extended their lead to 10-2 after three innings and sealed the deal with seven runs in the fourth. Mary Stephens connected with a two-run blast for Wylie's final run scored. Meagan Richardson was the winning pitcher.
Wylie will face Dallas Molina or Dallas Bryan Adams depending on outcome there.
Further details will be posted as soon as they become available.
First Teamers are Seth Hiddink and Keanan Craighead for the boys; Shelby Valdepena and Sydney Cook drew first-team honors for the girls.
Second-team recognition went to Lauren Story, Sarah Helfrich and Evie Osbourne on the girls side; Tanner Douthit and Alvin Manrique were so honored among the boys.
Addie Ault and Erica Hiddink garnered honorable mention.