BY GENE NARDI
Fall high school football has started in Palm Beach County. Many schools are preparing to hit the gridiron with big expectations for the coming season. Wellington High School is among them.
The Wolverines are the reigning District 9-8A champions and look to defend their title. Last year, the Wolverines posted a school best 11-2 record, earned the district crown and made a regional finals appearance.
Wellington is arguably in one of the toughest districts in the county, with Palm Beach Gardens, Seminole Ridge and Jupiter high schools, along with new district member Palm Beach Central High School. The Broncos are the three-time District 10-8A champions, but now find themselves in the company of two crosstown rivals.
With the exit of key players, such as quarterback Shannon Patrick (University of Pikeville), receiver Jean Rene (Valparaiso University) and kicker Alex Ng (Valparaiso University), the Wolverines will rely on transfer Blake Dever from St. Thomas Aquinas to take over as quarterback.
Wellington still has two of the best receivers in the county in Ahmmon Richards, who has verbally committed to the University of Miami, and Austin Gilman.
Dever will look to frequently connect with the duo through the season. St. Thomas Aquinas transfer Kevin Wright will also contribute as slot receiver. The junior has experience at the quarterback position as well.
Wellington head coach Tom Abel mentioned the chemistry the team had last year, and how it has carried over to this year, with many returning players.
“The kids just had to believe in what we were telling them,” he said. “The seniors care and take charge, and the kids believe.”
Wellington will look to continue with the spread-type offense, and challenge teams in the air, while running the ball when necessary.
Wellington suffers the loss to graduation of Keegan Sullivan and Brandon McNall, but reloaded with Santiago Posada and Harry Paul. Posada is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. Paul is also 6-4 but a bit lighter at 250 pounds.
The backfield will be occupied by Christian Shinn and freshman Mark Anthony Richards, Ahmmon’s younger brother. At 6 feet and 160 lbs., the freshman will share playing time and, Abel hopes, contribute during the season and develop as a player.
The Wolverines return both defensive ends, first team all-county senior Tyler Somers and Matt Mazzati. All-county seniors Alex Brosseau and Alec Malynn will anchor the defense at the linebacker positions. Both are 6 foot and over 230 pounds.
Logan Robinson will take over in the kicking game. He worked closely with Ng during last season. “He has a huge leg on him, and he kicks it to the back of the end zone,” Abel said.
Abel believes that Wellington has the total package to continue its winning ways, and looks to make another run at the district title. He is thrilled to have local schools on the schedule.
“It’s good to have those rivalries picked back up, and we should constantly play one another,” Abel added.
The Wolverines start their season at home Friday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. against Palm Beach Lakes High School in a preseason kickoff classic. The team’s regular-season opener will be away at Atlantic High School on Friday, Aug. 28.
ABOVE: Wellington receiver Nick Atkinson makes the catch and hangs on for possession during a scrimmage.