BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School varsity football squad has been diligently preparing for the new season.
The Wolverines graduated eight impact players last year. While several seniors return on the Wolverines squad, they are a young team this season with a positive outlook.
The Wolverines continue to have a freshman team but no junior varsity. This helps the younger players gain experience as varsity contributors and develop them into the future leaders on the team.
Coach Thomas Abel returns for his second season as head coach. “Last year was a learning experience for us,” he said.
Abel seemed to have the young Wellington squad on track in his first year as head coach, winning their first four games. A pivotal game was the Wolverines’ upset victory over John I. Leonard.
“The kids were not used to being on top, and we’ve been working on improving their focus this year to handle the pressure better,” Abel said.
He emphasized that adjustments were made with the coaching staff this year, and the team will be mentally and physically tough every game.
The Wolverines plan to use multiple formations on offense this year.
Defensively is where Wellington suffered the biggest hit with graduation, so look for the Wolverines to be mixing it up on defense to see who will end up the leader on that side of the ball.
Veteran quarterback Cole Smallridge returns. He is a three-year starter for the Wolverine offense. Look for Smallridge to have more input on the offensive play-calling at the line of scrimmage come game time.
The Wolverines plan on throwing the ball more this season as well, and with returning offensive line veterans senior Alex Henry and junior Keegan Sullivan, the Wolverines hope to put more points on the board.
The Wolverines have three solid running backs, including returning senior starter Matt Sabatino.
Wellington has a few changes in this year’s schedule. Their district (9-8A) remains the same, with Jupiter, Seminole Ridge and Palm Beach Gardens high schools.
Added back to the Wolverines schedule are Santaluces and West Boca Raton high schools. New opponents are West Broward and South Fork.
One school Wellington will not see on the gridiron this season is cross-town rival Palm Beach Central.
“We’re looking to do a lot of good things out there this year. We’ve given them the tools, and it will be up to the kids to get it done. We have a very positive outlook for the season,” Abel said.
The Wolverines travel to Olympic Heights High School on Friday, Aug. 23 for their kickoff classic game. Wellington will open the regular season hosting Santaluces High School on Friday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
ABOVE: Returning quarterback Cole Smallridge looks to pass.