by Austin Silvey @SilveyESP
COLUMBIA, SC — The stage is set. The final contenders have been decided. Another season is almost in the books and a special group of seniors get set to play their final high school football game.
The Hurricanes of Wren High School (Piedmont, SC) have been on the destruction path this season en route to the program’s first ever State Championship appearance. Led by a stout group of seniors, Jeff Tate and company are just 48 minutes away from claiming their first State Championship trophy.
The obstacle that stands between them and the trophy is one that this state is very familiar with....the reigning AAAA State Champion Myrtle Beach Seahawks. The Seahawks have won seven state titles in their program's history (1980, 81, 83, 84, 08, 10, 18).
Through 14 games this year, including four playoff games, the Wren Hurricanes have averaged 53.4 points and 456.9 yards per game. They have outscored their opponents by a total of 498 points (746-248). The numbers, talent, and production on offense speak for themselves.
Senior quarterback Joe Owens has had a sensational season, amassing 69 total touchdowns. That is the second most in South Carolina history in a single season behind former Byrnes QB Shuler Bentley who had 71 total touchdowns in 2013.
Their two senior pass catchers, Tyler Cherry and Eli Wilson, have combined for 163 catches, 2939 yards and 43 touchdowns. Senior running back Logan Simmons has helped keep the ground game going with 154 carries for 912 yards and 11 touchdowns. Noah Black (WR - SR.) also brought in 56 catches for 730 yards and EIGHT touchdowns.
They also returned four starters from the 2018 team on the offensive line, including Devan Cooley (Jr.), Nicholas Earle (Sr.), Hunter Fountain (Jr.), and Colin Kosek (Sr.).
The Hurricane defense is not to be slighted either. They have given up just 17.7 points per game, recorded 44.5 sacks (74 QB hurries), forced 28 interceptions, recovered 21 fumbles, deflected 41 passes, and blocked SIX punts.
"Our mentality on defense has always been since day one to be the best defense in the state, to create turnovers, to be the most disciplined defense, to giving our offense a chance to score points keeping our opponent’s offense off the field and win ball games," Wren's defensive coordinator Quinnon Isom said.
"But above all, to play like a pack of hungry Wild Dawgs who love one another and who refuse to let each other down by being true to doing your job as a Wren Hurricane Football player. We allow our guys to play fast and aggressive all the while teaching them fundamental principles that will help them be successful."
When the offense couldn't get anything going against Greenville in the third round of the playoffs, the defense made the plays necessary to seal the victory. Prior to that game, in the regular season, Wren was 0-2 in games where they didn't score 50 points.
The last two playoff games against Greenville and Ridge View, they have been held to 17 and 34 respectively. In both games, the defense forced timely turnovers and turned them into points and/or time-consuming drives to milk the clock with a lead.
For the second consecutive year, Dez Frazier (LB, Senior) is leading the team in tackles with 146 total, including 23 tackles for loss which is second most on the team, 10.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, TWO interceptions, FIVE pass deflections, THREE fumble recoveries, and TWO forced fumbles. Dez has been a starter on the team since his freshman season and his level of play on the field, fiery attitude, and high-motor make it abundantly clear as to why.
Coming up right behind him is another senior linebacker, Carson Galloway, who has 131 total tackles on the year with 14.5 tackles for loss, SIX sacks, SEVEN quarterback hurries, ONE interception, and ONE fumble recovery.
Four of the top five leading tacklers on the team are seniors with the exception being junior linebacker Reed Morrissey, a guy who transferred in from JL Mann this year. The other two leading defenders are defensive end Malik Mattress (90 tackles, 23.5 TFL, 8 sacks, 15 QBH, 3 FR) and defensive back Harrison Morgan (80 tackles, 5 TFL, 7 INT, 6 PBU, 2 FR).
Defensive Coordinator & Linebackers Coach Quinnon Isom, who is in his first season with Wren after coming from JL Mann, has done a tremendous job with the defense this year. Coming into a new situation where the entire previous starting defensive line graduated was no easy task. But it didn't take long for him to gain the players' trust and get them to buy into how good they could be.
Prior to the season, Harrison Morgan told the Anderson Independent, "We've gotten a lot closer, (Isom) trusts us as players and we trust him as a coach. We're on the same page now so going into the season we're comfortable with him as our coach." (see full article by Kennington Smith here)
"I’ve had the esteemed pleasure to coach a group of young men who in this Senior Class has embodied our goals, values, and principles that were set by our Head Coach Jeff Tate here at Wren High School," Isom told ESP.
"These goals and beliefs we have within our program, has allowed us to have that direct path to where we wanted to be at the end of the season and that’s playing for a State Championship, but the goal is still not complete."
There was never a doubt about this team's desire and drive to be great. You could see it from preseason scrimmages to the Upper State Championship game that Wren would not be denied the chance to play for their first ever State Championship.
Quinnon Isom told us, "The motivation and driving force from this incredible run this season and for seasons to come is basically doing what we do best and that’s playing 'Hurricane Football' or 'Canes Corner Football.' Be who We are and be the best at who we are on offense, defense, and special teams."
"Love one another, care for one another, and trust the process in every fascist of the game. That’s what lead to this incredible run we have had this year but the goal is not yet complete."
"It’s also due to our leadership from our Head Football Coach Jeff Tate. He’s been here before and understands the process and what it takes to dominate our opponents and be great at what we do in all phases of the game. Which has helped us get to where we are today, but the goal is not completed."
The young talent on this team is phenomenal, with guys like Shyhiem Scotland, Briggs Cox, Hayden Willimon, Malachi Hill, Luke Schuller, Shavis Edwards, Nick Morgan, Zorian Young, and so many more. They have been critical to Wren getting where they are. But even beyond the box scores and stat sheets, the seniors on this team have stayed the course, never wavered and helped keep the team as a whole focused on the main goal....WIN STATE.
"The seniors meant a lot to the team, they helped us not only on the field but off the field. They taught us to be mature and work hard in everything we do. I look up to them a lot." - Shavis Edwards (DB - Soph.)
"The seniors really led by example and showed you how and when to do things rather then tell you." - Nick Morgan (DB - Soph.)
"The seniors really helped set the standard of what needed to be done and as nick said they lead by example not words." - Malik Woodruff (LB/DL - Soph.)
"The seniors have set the standard for the type of teammates we should be and the type of players we should be. They are great players but more importantly great guys." - Hayden Willimon (WR - Jr.)
"The seniors have help us on and off the field. They set the bar for us to get better and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them." - Malachi Hill (RB - Soph.)
The Hurricanes are set to make landfall on Saturday night in Columbia, SC around 6:30 pm. The Seahawks will look to weather the storm and extend their championship reign.
Wren has a chance to make history and put a stamp on this historic run. It won't be easy, but these Hurricanes, no doubt, are up for the challenge.