TRINITY — What Wheatmore may not have in depth it’ll look to make up for in talent.

The Warriors, with a couple strong seasons still in recent memory, look to get back to those heights this season after struggling through two seasons hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

TRINITY – What Wheatmore may not have in depth it’ll look to make up for in talent.

The Warriors, with a couple strong seasons still in recent memory, look to get back to those heights this season after struggling through two seasons hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We're still fighting the numbers battle,” said coach Philip Yarbrough, in his sixth season at the helm. “But the kids that we have out have really bought in. They’re working hard, improving every week. So, other than the low numbers, we're really pleased.”

Heading into the start of the season, Wheatmore aims to have about 35-40 players, which is borderline for setting up a JV program, Yarbrough said. But, with that said, it boasts a solid corps of returnees.

The Warriors, who went 3-6 overall and 0-5 in the PAC 1A/2A last year, look to return about six on offense and about five on defense who saw significant playing time last year.

Sophomore quarterback Riley Strickland has progressed well while sophomore running back Jonathan Kelly and junior Sa’Cory Maryland aim to key Wheatmore’s multiple-spread offense.

Senior cornerback Levi Johnson, junior safety Trey Swaney and sophomore linebacker Ashtin Bennett return to lead the 3-4 defense for the Warriors, who won 12 games and reached the third round of the playoffs in 2018.

“It’s all going to depend on health,” Yarbrough said. “If we can keep our top guys healthy, we can be competitive in every game. We’re always one or two injuries away from being out of sorts.

“We learned a lesson last year, with our numbers low. When Ben (quarterback Ben Walker) went down, we had an answer with Riley. But when Riley went down, we didn’t have an answer. So, we’re trying to make sure we’ve got guys playing multiple positions.”

Wheatmore will open its schedule at East Davidson, then at Ledford before hosting Chatham Central. It’ll then start conference play, which has traditionally been highlighted by Randleman and Eastern Randolph but has grown to recently include Providence Grove and Southwestern Randolph.

The Warriors, who feature six seniors and 18 sophomores on this year’s roster following a drastically shortened 2020 season (that was played in the spring of 2021) and a cautious 2021 season, will visit archrival Trinity on Oct. 14.

“The biggest thing for us is to win the games we should win,” Yarbrough said. “And then to be competitive in those games that’ll be a little tougher. In the buildup to the run we had a couple years ago, we were really competitive in games we physically couldn’t win quite yet.

“Whereas the last two years, we either won or we got blown out. We’ve got to get back to that, where our mentality is to be great competitors. We’re definitely not writing off the year by any means. We have very talented seniors, but we’re sophomore heavy. But I’ll take this group with any of them – this is a fun group.”

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