WILSON — A new era is dawning for the Lakemen. A new turf field brings thoughts of endless possibilities for Wilson High School and its football team.
Head coach Bill Atlas has been getting used to the new facility and is more than ready to be attempt to take advantage of it. He hopes the upgrade will allow the team to build on last season’s success after finishing the year at 7-2.
“It’s been great. It’s a beautiful field,” Atlas said. “They did a really nice job. ... It’s great for football, we’re gonna have all the sports on it and it’s great for the community.”
Atlas will be tasked with replacing one of Class C’s finest dual-threat quarterbacks. Steven Frerichs is now a student-athlete at Morrisville State College after he put up big numbers in his senior season, during which he accounted for 24 total touchdowns (17 passing, 7 rushing) and 1,934 yards of total offense (1,555 passing yards, 379 rushing yards).
It is no small matter replacing a reigning Class C Co-Player of the Year, but Atlas is comforted by the fact that he has someone he is more than familiar with that will be taking over for Frerichs.
“It’ll be tough replacing Steven. He was a dual-threat, big-time,” Atlas said. “(But) Bobby Atlas will be our quarterback. He’s been in the program for years and years. He was always just one year shy of Steven. So this is his year to start and his year to shine.”
The elder Atlas has always coached his son, even dating back to his youth football days. This will be, however, the first time he will handle the head coaching duties while his son starts under center. The younger Atlas provides a different set of skills than his predecessor, but his father believes he gives the Lakemen a chance to win because of what he provides “from the neck up.”
“Bobby’s pretty good (with) throwing the ball. His short game is really good and his audible packages that we have in for him are good, too,” Bill Atlas said. “He’s definitely gonna be different but he’ll still help us win some games.”
The reason Atlas feels that they are still in a position to win is because of the continuity that the offense will bring around the new QB. Instead of carrying the load, Bobby Atlas should be able to spread the ball around and manage the game.
“We’ve got pretty much the entire (offensive) line back and our entire running back and receiving core back, except for Marcel (Wilson), who’s gonna be another one who’s gonna be tough to replace,” the elder Atlas said.
“But with Bobby taking over at quarterback and we’ve got Jared Jaques, Marc Dolyk and Julian Andreola also, those three receivers we’ll be targeting a lot to get the ball dispersed a little bit more than we did last year.”
Wilson was Frerichs’ most productive target last season, posting 30 catches, 597 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns and an eye-popping 19.9 yards per catch. The younger Atlas wants to be able to lean on his chemistry with his teammates to be more of a distributor within the offense.
“We have a lot of great playmakers like Drew (Westmorland) and Brayden (Dunlap) in the backfield,” Bobby said.
“I’ve been playing with those guys since we were really young, so it’s just gonna be really easy for me to facilitate to them. If I only have to throw three passes a game, that makes my job really easy and if we can do that and win the game then I’m comfortable with that.”
He also feels that he brings intangibles to the field that will help bring Wilson football more success this fall.
“I’m a pretty solid leader. Like I said, I know all these guys really well,” Bobby said. “We bond really well as a team.”
One weapon that the team’s new QB could use as his safety valve is 6-foot-4 All-New York State tight end Declan Faery. Over a quarter of the first team Class C North selection’s catches last season went for touchdowns (11 catches, 3 touchdown receptions) and this year he looks to help his new quarterback lead the team on both sides of the ball in the trenches.
“Bobby’s been in the system for a year so he knows what he’s doing,” Faery said. “We can just both be leaders on the offense. ... I try to go out there and make a play on every snap.”
The Wilson offense will have a dynamic-duo in their backfield, with Dunlap (622 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns, 6.2 yards per carry) and Westmorland (489 yards from scrimmage, 7 touchdowns, 5.5 yards per carry) back after strong 2018 campaigns.
Simply known as “Shake-and-Bake,” this tandem should keep defenders on notice all season long.
Dunlap talked about his one-two punch with Westmorland and how they will gel with Atlas.
“(With) Westy and I in the backfield, Westy brings the power and I’m more speed,” he said. “And Bobby, he just does his thing. He’s a great quarterback. Us three in the backfield all together, it’s gonna be a good season with us three.”
Westmorland is the elder statesmen for this year’s Lakemen, entering his fourth consecutive season on varsity. He will be adjusting to life without his best friend in Frerichs, as they came up together in the Wilson football ranks from their time in the youth leagues.
After finishing as the team’s leading tackler in his first three seasons, the 2018 all-state middle linebacker wants to be a presence that his younger teammates can follow behind.
“I’m looking to be an example for the (younger) kids to try hard,” Westmorland said. “We’ve had some really close failures at the end of our seasons and playoff games. Just losing by a point, losing by a yard. But I just want these kids to understand that (you should) keep trying — you’re gonna get there, you’re gonna make it. Even if you do fail, you’re still gonna go somewhere.
“... I just want them to keep trying (and) keep working so we do get that win, we do get that one yard, we do get that one point. Just keep working hard and just have a great season. That’s just what I want them to have.”
Westmorland may have had last season’s 45-44 sectional semifinal loss in mind with this soliloquy.
With a mindset like this, who knows how far he can help take Wilson in ‘19.
For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos.