Wildcats football returns to the gridiron for annual spring game

Nate Bope, Staff Writer

Dear Wayne State College football fans, spring football is finally here.  

Last season, the Wildcats went 9-3 overall and made the Division II Playoffs for the second time in school history and the first time since 2008. They fell short to the 19th ranked team in the nation in Minnesota State-Mankato in the first round of the D2 playoffs, 26-9. Yet, there is much expectation for the Wildcats to do big things again in 2023. 

“Right now, we got to get through spring ball,” Head Coach Logan Masters said. “Right now, it’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s about getting better and better every single day.” 

The Wildcat offense, which averaged 29.25 points per game and 389.6 yards per game, returns lots of talent, including star quarterback Nick Bohn. Last season, Bohn completed 59.34% of his passes for 2246 yards, 19 touchdowns and only six interceptions. In addition to that he also ran for 722 yards and seven touchdowns.  

“Seeing Kick grow as a passer has been the big challenge,” Masters said. “We’re making him an even better passer, so teams have to key in on more than his running.” 

The Wildcats lost Mason Lee, who contributed 591 yards and five touchdowns on 35 catches last year, but much of the wide receiver talent returns. Leading pass catcher Jadon Johnson, who caught 35 passes for 632 yards and five touchdowns. With him, Trevor Marshall and Ashten Schmaderer return, as well as Lan VanderWal and Kendrick Watkins-Hogue. Top tight end Gage Dengel returns along with back-up Trey Miller. 

Running back is the big question mark for the offense. WSC lost the top two backs from last year in Anthony Waktins and Jacob Keiser. Watkins had 844 yards and 10 touchdowns on 162 carries last year, and Keiser had 381 yards and five touchdowns on 91 carries. Highlighting the backfield for WSC in 2023 will be Dawson Forgy and former division I transfer out of Toledo Cauren Lynch. Redshirt freshman Latravious Boyd figures to get carries as well. 

The offensive line returns many starters like Chris Graham, Jett Janssen and Saquahan Cobbs. 

“The offense has been super explosive this spring,” senior safety Tanner Cooper said. “The offense is looking to build off last season and it’s going to be exciting to watch.” 

The Wildcat defense returns eight of its 11 starters from a season ago. Among the starters leaving are key defensive backs J’Von France and Jaylan Scott. 

Leading the secondary this year will be Cooper. He recorded 42 total tackles, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and two interceptions last season. Jacob Byrd, Marzion Cosby, and Gerale Flye will help lead the Wildcat secondary this year.  

On the defensive line, lots of production returns. Luke Sims has been one of the leaders of the spring, as he really exploded at the end of last season. Jaxon Johnson and Rex Becker return to the line, as well as Trent Rasmussen. Between those four players, there was a combined 126 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. WSC also brings in a transfer in junior Cody Smidt our of Iowa Central Community College. Last season, Smidt has 18 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks for the Tritons. 

The linebacking group may by the most talented level of this defensive. All-NSIC performer and last years leading tackler Alex Kowalczyk returns. He led the team with 106 total tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss and two and a half sacks. Kowalczyk also tallied three picks and two forced fumbles. With him returns Dexter Larsen, who finished last year with 64 tackles, five and a half tackles for loss and three sacks.  

Larsen also came up with an interception and forced three fumbles last season. WSC also brings back Tyler LeClair and brings in a highly touted recruit in Ahmar Brown, a 6’0, 195 lbs prospect out of Creighton Prep in Omaha. Brown originally committed to North Dakota State, before decommitting to play for WSC. Brown had 100 tackles last year for the Junior Jays, including six and a half tackles for loss.  

“I think we have some dawgs on this defense,” Cooper said. “I feel we are going to be a threat in this league. I am very confident and very excited for this season.” 

WSC also has to fill in a big-time position at kicker and punter after the departure of Alex Powders.  

“Powders had too many big kicks to count over his career here,” Masters said. “Right now was have Trevor Marshall doing the punting for his. He’s a very talented leg. And at kicker we have Trace Anderson, who is only getting more powerful and accurate.” 

Trevor Marshall also plays wide receiver and Trace Anderson redshirted last season.  

The annual Black and Gold spring game is slated to take place on Saturday, April 22. The game and other festivities will be held at Bob Cunningham Field on the campus of Wayne State College. 

“We bring a big core of last year’s team back,” Masters said. “They play the game the right way. They play with passion and love for each other.” 

“Be ready for explosive plays and be ready for a show,” Cooper said. 

The Wildcats begin the 2023 season with a Thursday night game on August 31st against the Minnesota State Morehead Dragon at Bob Cunningham Field. The very next week, the Wildcats get a playoff rematch against the Mavericks from Minnesota State-Mankato in Mankato Minnesota.  

The rest of the schedule for the Wildcats includes home games against Southwest Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State and Augustana. The Wildcats have a nonconference road game against the Missouri S&T Miners, and conference road games against Minot State, Northern State, Sioux Falls, and Concordia-St. Paul.