High aspirations have Scots seeking conference crown

High aspirations have Scots seeking conference crown

Image Credit: Matt Dilyard

Depth at every position, an ability to get through a full season enabling team members playing experience and off-season skill development coming out of the peak COVID year, and several signature wins over the last few seasons have The College of Wooster football team poised to be a legit contender for the North Coast Athletic Conference title this fall.

The lines are where everything starts, according to Frank Colaprete, now in his 10th year at the helm of the Fighting Scots’ program, and both sides of the trenches enter 2022 with significantly more experience than a season ago, which should bode well all across the board.

Wooster’s defensive line was arguably one of the position groups most in need of a jolt of game experience last year. Junior Domenic DeMuth, voted one of Wooster’s four captains, is one of the position group’s leaders, evidenced by 48 tackles, the most among defensive linemen on the 2021 team, and a co-team-best three sacks. Junior Neil Clayton is another veteran playmaker with 29 tackles on the line while seniors Nkosi Stewart and Quincy Taylor anchored the interior.

On the offensive side, senior Colton Rambur, junior Bryce Kamphues and sophomore Seth Robinson are returning line starters while sophomore Tyler Ellsworth filled a variety of roles within that group as a first-year and made his first collegiate start late in the season.

Overall, defensive players are excited about what they are doing and the positions they are in coming off the spring, according to Colaprete. Part of that optimism is attributed to a now-experienced, versatile group, especially among the back seven of Wooster’s 4-2-5 system, where numerous players there have game experience in multiple positions within the linebacker and secondary position groups. That gives Wooster the ability to match up well against different offensive systems and could make the team a little harder to scout.

Junior Alex White headlines the back seven as the lone returning All-Conference player among the linebackers and secondary, and he is someone who is a true outside linebacker, part linebacker and part strong safety, according to Colaprete, who projects him to have more of a linebacker role than in the past, highlighting a “physical, fast and athletic” group.

On paper Wooster’s defensive strength is in the secondary, where sophomore Jon Banal, senior Charlie Henegar, senior Matt Ulishney and senior Langston Williams lead the way among the returnees. Ulishney is a projected four-year starter. Williams provided a big boost and was one of the team’s top playmakers on a near-weekly basis upon his return to the lineup in 2021. Henegar returns fully healthy and has found a home in the secondary after starting his career at wide receiver, and Banal is one of the team’s top rising sophomores.

“Us being stronger up front should help the back end of our defense out tremendously,” Colaprete said. “The other guys who will rotate in there are talented and have experience as well.”

All-American tight end Cole Hissong is back for a fifth year, as is two-time All-NCAC and multi-record-holding quarterback Mateo Renteria.

The two have chemistry, according to Colaprete. “(They) kind of know where each other is going to be, and at the same time, they trust each other to make the play.”

At receiver, fifth-year senior Troy Baughman leads the way. Colaprete said he's a true football player and someone who will excel at any position on offense or defense. That notion is especially true with the four-year starter at running back making a seamless transition to inside wide receiver midway through the 2021 season.

Colaprete said a talented group of other wide receivers and tight ends will benefit from the experience at the quarterback position, and the Scots’ head coach is optimistic for lots of catches and touchdowns out of the group. Junior Carter Warstler, an All-Region return specialist, has deep-threat potential while rising sophomore Andrew Hammer projects to have a more featured role, according to Colaprete.

Senior Andrew Yanssens slid into the starting role at running back upon Baughman’s transition to inside wide receiver while junior PT Fischer has shifted over from defensive back to running back to help bring consistency in the ground game, according to Colaprete. Junior Joshua Pond, another of the Scots’ all-around skill players, should have a swing role between running back and slot and has the versatility to play where he is needed most.

Wooster is fortunate with the luxury of having one of the best special teams units in all of NCAA Div. III. Senior Matt Pardi, Wooster’s nominee for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, is able to change field position consistently. Classmate Lake Barrett, Wooster’s nominee for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, is one of the most consistent placekickers in the country.

Wooster’s season will open at Geneva College on Saturday, Sept. 3 with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. The first home game of the year will take place on Black and Gold Weekend on Sept. 17 when Wabash College comes to Wooster for a 2 p.m. kickoff. Three of Wooster’s last four games of the year will take place at John P. Papp Stadium.

“The schedule is a flip of last year, so we will be away a lot early on and then home at the end of the year,” Colaprete said. “Hopefully, we get through the first half of the season pretty successfully and we are fighting for a conference championship during the late-season home games. I think we have put ourselves in a position over the last few years with the wins we have had and the recruiting we have done to head into this year with the mindset that our goal is to win the NCAC. It is something we are really looking for this fall.”