Wally Wilmore has been freed from under center.
The York senior will play all over the field for the Cougars this season, after being forced into playing quarterback for much of last season due to an injury to starter Cameron McKinney. The arrival late last season of quarterback Brayden Hawkins gives Bobby Carroll’s team a legitimate pocket passer for its spread offense and could spark one of the best York offenses in a long time.
“We’re gonna try to establish the run, but we’re not truly a zone-read football team,” said Carroll, his legs kicked up on his desk before Thursday’s practice. “This quarterback is what we need to run this style of offense.”
It’s been 30 years since York won the 3A state title in 1986; check out this interactive graphic remembering the championship season:
After McKinney went down last season, Wilmore moved to quarterback and the Cougars morphed into a zone-read offense, milking a play where the quarterback and running back mesh together momentarily before the QB either keeps the ball or leaves it in the back’s gut. The choice is based on a read made in the blink of an eye and Wilmore ran it well. The only problem was every opponent knew that too.
“When we couldn’t run the ball we didn’t have much success,” said fourth-year offensive coordinator Knox Baggett. “We’re excited about being able to have a little more balance this year.”
I did, but I didn’t show it too much because my teammates always lifted me up and have been there with me the whole way through. They took some of the pressure off me.
York’s Wally Wilmore
York’s offense will be better because it should be able to fully utilize all of its weaponry.
“We feel good with Brayden being a pocket passer and having a lot of different variety of receivers to go to,” said Wilmore, who landed scholarship offers from Army, Navy, Furman and several other schools over the summer.
Some fans might have forgotten that Wilmore was the Cougars’ leading receiver during the 2014 season when Carroll led the Cougars to the 4A Division II state final.
“Wally is a fantastic athlete and I’m sure he’s got some great days ahead of him,” said Carroll. “What we want him and the rest of this team to concentrate on is today. Practice today. We put a lot of pressure on players, saying ‘hey, we want to win a state championship,’ when the focus has really got to be on getting there.”
Jae’vion Matthews is another college prospect on the roster who’s a bit under the radar but poised to emerge this season. Matthews – who has an offer from South Carolina State and interest from numerous bigger schools – was laser-timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 this summer at The Opening. He scored seven non-offensive touchdowns last season (three defensive scores, four punt returns), and is easily one of the fastest players in the area.
“Jae’vion might be one of the fastest kids in the state,” said Carroll. “He’s got it.”
Then there is Shandon Cobb, a senior deep threat that is also adept at catching screens and scrapping for yards after the catch. Shaq Harris is another receiver that Carroll and Wilmore mentioned during interviews on Thursday. And the backfield is loaded with tree stump-like senior Tyquan McCray and scat-back Paul Moore.
It says something about how far Carroll has taken his alma mater since 2011 that an eight-win campaign felt like a down year at York. Last season was the first in Carroll’s five years at the school that the Cougars didn’t win 10 games. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to suggest this team could get back to that level.
We’ve got some playmakers, man, we’ve just got to get the ball in their hands.
York coach Bobby Carroll
That said, Hawkins, a 6-foot-2 junior, isn’t an extension cord that plugs into the Cougar offense and automatically improves the situation. Several open receivers were overthrown during Saturday’s scrimmage against Hillcrest and it will take some time to get all the players and coaches on the same wavelength.
“That’s something we’re working on,” said Baggett. “Fighting through some adversity at practice and I’m sure we’ll have some out here today. Good news is we don’t play for a couple more weeks.”
Matthews said that Hawkins and a group of receivers were at York every Sunday this summer doing 1-on-1 drills in an effort to foster chemistry and competition.
“We weren’t really happy, we weren’t satisfied with 8-4,” said Matthews. “We’re trying to come back here with a better season this year.”
Led by linebacker Desmond Ricks and defensive end Markees Watts, Lancaster’s defense could be very, very good.