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High Schools

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
With players such as, from left, Curtis Stephens, Deion Powers, Kye Black, Keion Powers, Austin Robertson, Austin Yarbro and Joc Thomas, there are plenty of expectations for continued success at Wayne for the 2014 season.

Optimism reigns at Wayne

Back in the 1990s, Wayne was a powerhouse. There was a Class 4A state title in 1995, a state runner-up in 1992 and regional titles in 1991-93 and ’95.

Then something happened and the talent, accolades and accomplishments dried up.

These days, the Generals might be remembered more for being on probation in 2011, a year when the program went winless, prompted by an outburst of poor sportsmanship in a sectional loss in 2010.

Change might be on its way, though.

“We want to make a statement, and we are a better team than we were and Wayne athletics can be productive, and it is not just a bad school,” senior defensive back Kye Black said.

Under the leadership of former coach Robert Brown, the program was on the upswing the last three years and might be ready for a breakout campaign that could put the Generals back on top of the SAC, as well as the Class 5A playoffs.

“It’s all about the process,” senior receiver Deion Powers said. “Our first couple of seasons, … we kept working hard. It’s just a process. (The ’95 team) won a state championship, and we are looking forward to doing that this year.”

The talent is there with several three- and four-year starters. And after Brown landed as the coach at Anderson, in stepped Scot Shaw, a highly successful high school coach in Michigan.

“We have been building the program since freshman year, and we are not going to stop doing that just because we switched coaches,” Powers said. “We are going to keep building it.”

The pieces are in place for the Generals.

“There are some athletes,” Shaw said of the Generals. “The nice thing about inheriting experience is not necessarily what they can do as athletes, but what they have learned to expect. They have been in a game situation in the last three years that they might see this year, and they know what to expect. That proves invaluable in leadership to the younger kids. They can explain maybe a bit better than I can what they are going to expect.”

The success of the ’90s is all around the building, with banners and trophies adorning the school and field.

“We have all been working hard for four years and been together for four summers now,” senior lineman Eddie Elder said. “Last year, we were so worried about winning in the (SAC) instead of higher goals beyond the conference. This year, we are trying to win championships. We proved ourselves a little bit, but we are still considered underdogs just because we are Wayne. We are not known for football like Snider or somebody else.”

The Wayne players, coaches and certainly the fans are ready for the turnaround.

“As a freshman, you come in with that swagger,” Black said. “As middle school kids, we were really good. We had that 0-10 season, and it was really hard to come back from that. We had three wins (the next year), and we decided to just keep grinding. Now that we are here and coming off a winning season, … we have a lot of confidence. All we have to do is keep staying humble and keep playing. If we just keep playing every play our hardest, we can really make a run this year and do good things.

“We do have a really good team, and we have jelled together because we have been together. We took the beatdowns together, and we had the mediocre times together and we had the up times. We have been in it together throughout the whole process. By the time we are seniors, it is just like it is our last chance and why not leave it out on the field. I do believe we can make it back to where they were before.”

The Generals (6-4 in 2013) showed a glimpse of what they are capable of doing when they demolished 4A state runner-up Bishop Dwenger 45-6 during the regular season.

“I don’t think they will necessarily sneaking up on people this year,” Dwenger senior running back/linebacker Andrew Gabet said. “People know they are there. They are a good football team and have a lot of great athletes. No one should overlook anybody.”

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by e-mail; phonte, 461-8224 or fax 461-8648.