Martin Warriors expect defense, special teams to be strengths

Posted Monday, Aug. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Even though fall camp gets started this week for the Martin football team, the Warriors and coach Bob Wager don’t exactly see it as the beginning of the season.

“They had a great offseason and a tremendous summer,” Wager said. “We’ve got a football team that’s in phenomenal physical condition. So as it pertains to our preparation for this season, I think you’ve got to go back and look at what you did in the six months prior to it, and I’m awful proud of the effort from the coaches and players, because that’s where you win games.”

Entering the 2013 campaign, the Martin defense will get most of the press, especially highly touted defensive end Myles Garrett. While Wager does expect Garrett to be a dominant force this season, he also feels like there’s plenty of talent around him.

Junior linebacker Josh Watson controls the defense, “driving the bus,” as Wager puts it.

And newcomer linebacker Dequaylyn Thomas is expected to be a breakout star. Wager expects the sophomore to make an immediate contribution.

“It’s not commonplace for us to play a significant amount of sophomores on the varsity level unless they’re the best ones at their spots. And there’s no doubt about it, he is,” Wager said. “I expect him to be an impact player not when he grows up, but now. He’s the next big thing at Martin High School.”

Defensive back Cedric Fernandes is another player Wager expects to do big things this year. After missing last season with a knee injury, the senior returns to the secondary he roamed as a sophomore.

“I expect Cedric to come back with a vengeance,” Wager added.

Offensively, the Warriors appear young but talented. Sophomore Nick Smith will be the featured back after seeing time last year as a freshman. Smith stepped in when standout Kyle Hicks was injured, and Wager says Martin will hitch its wagon to the youngster this season.

“He’s a sophomore, but you can’t rattle his cage,” Wager said. “He’s got more experience than most of the seniors on our team.”

Quarterback question

The identity of the quarterback who will hand the ball to Smith is still a bit of a mystery. Three players including sophomore Eric Walker and senior Sam Brinegar enter the fall battling for the starting job.

Watson will also get practice reps at quarterback.

“In an ideal world you’ve got one back there that can do it all, but this is high school football. It doesn’t always work out that way,” Wager said. “So, you take what you’ve got and put them in the best possible position to be successful. You focus on their strengths and if that means one person, great. If it means it takes multiple people to get it done, then that’s great, too.”

One thing that should help whoever takes snaps is a stable offensive line. Though unproven, Wager is high on the linemen’s potential.

“I think the offensive line has a chance to be one of the strengths of our team,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased with not only what they were able to accomplish over the spring, but more importantly what they were able to accomplish over the summer.”

Despite the youth, Wager expects the offense to be ready for prime time.

“They’re going to have to be ready,” he said. “If they weren’t the best at that spot, they wouldn’t play. It just so happens that a lot of them are young. But that’s not a crutch; that’s not an excuse. We embrace it, and we’re excited about it. We’ve got a young, hungry football team.”

Kicking a plus

Another strength for Martin is special teams. The school’s last two kickers have gone on to play Division I college football, and that trend should continue. Eight kickers came out for spring practice, and Wager narrowed that lot down to three: seniors Spencer Evans and Matt Cruck and junior Julian Martinez.

“Honestly, they may be three of the best kickers in the entire DFW area,” Wager said. “We’ll use all three. We’ll find a way to utilize the things that they do well. Field goals, extra points, kickoffs and punts — that’s not the time to go get nachos at the concession stand.”

With its experienced defense and special teams and a young but potentially dangerous offense, Wager feels Martin has all the pieces to wrestle back the District 3-5A title.

“If that’s not our goal, if that’s not what we’re working for every single day, then shame on us,” he said. “I hope that everybody you talk to has the exact same response.

“We would never go into a season thinking anything less than winning a district championship or even a state championship. That’s always the goal.”

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