If you think you’ve been hearing the name Jensen Merricle more the final three weeks of the season, you’re right.
After being benched earlier in the season, the Wapakoneta Redskins junior running back has returned to the lineup and become a significant contributor down the stretch.
After carrying the ball just four times in the previous four games, Merricle broke out in Week 8, rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown in six carries in the win over Van Wert.
In the Week 9 win over Shawnee, he carried the ball just four times, but he gained 56 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the night. He also had a 25-yard reception to set up another score.
Last week against Kenton, he carried the ball eight times for 28 yards and had two catches for 50 yards.
“He’s made a lot of progress,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said. “It’s a tribute to Jensen and his character because we basically benched him for a couple weeks. And a lot of kids would have went back and sulked about it. But he didn’t. He stayed and kept working and kept believing and rotated himself back in.
“Jensen’s really a testament to what I’m looking for in this program. I’m looking for people who will sacrifice individual things for the better of the team and do little things. What I told Jensen when we put him on the bench, ‘You’ve got these five little things to get better at. When you start to, then we’ll get you back in the lineup.’ And he went to practice and he did that. And that’s exactly what we’re looking for in our football program.”
Closer to full strength:
Frye had to do some significant shuffling to his lineup in Week 10, what with the OHSAA investigation and a small handful of injuries. The Redskins started two freshmen — defensive lineman Thomas Schoenlein and cornerback Kodi Morgan — against arguably the best quarterback in the state, Maty Mauk.
And offensively, Frye was still without running back Josh Windle and tight end Alec Temple, both of which were out with injuries.
Windle and Temple are back for Friday night, though not quite at 100-percent, but they will likely see significant playing time.
“Windle is about 85-90 percent,” Frye said. “[Temple] dressed for the game last week, but he’s full-go now.”
Where are they now?:
Frye’s 16-4 record in his two seasons at Wapak is good enough for a .800 win percentage, the highest of any coach in the Redskins’ history.
Among former coaches, John Nemec is first at .725. Nemec compiled a record of 29-10-1 in four seasons at the helm before leaving after leading the Redskins to their first 10-0 season in 1975.
Nemec then went on to Kent Roosevelt High School in eastern Ohio, where he still coaches today. He has amassed more than 200 wins in his career and was inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2005.
Roosevelt is in the playoffs again this year, in Division II. So it’s possible he could be reunited with Wapakoneta as early as the state semifinals, should both teams make it that far.