After an Up-and-Down Year, Wabash Football Ends Year with Bell Win
Wabash started the season 5-0, which included two marquee road victories: at playoff-bound Rose-Hulman, and an overtime win at Denison capped off by an unfathomable 2-point conversion. All in all, the Little Giants looked poised for a historic season.
Although the season did not culminate with an NCAC Title or a Division III playoff berth, the Wabash College football team still managed to sign off their up-and-down season on a historic note, with the biggest comeback in the Monon Bell Classic ever.
Facing a 21-0 deficit by the end of the first quarter, the Little Giants managed to go on a 42-7 run, which not only gave DePauw’s team their only NCAC loss of the season, but the first signature moment of many for Little Giant Stadium.
As the dust settles on the 2021 season for the Little Giants, there is much to look forward to heading into next season. For starters, the NCAC will look a little different. Allegheny College, one of the seven founding institutions, will be stepping away from the conference. On the football field, the Little Giants will replace the annual game against Allegheny with an out-of-conference team for the 2022 season.
Looking towards the team, there will be plenty of flux, as 20 seniors will be graduating. Six of the individuals – Joey Annee (1st), Dane Smith (1st), Seth Buresh (2nd), David Marsh (2nd), Jackson Clayborne (2nd), and Thomas Bolen (2nd), earned All-NCAC honors, with Josh Myers receiving a spot on the All-NCAC Honorable Mention team. All three phases of the ball for the Little Giants will have to adjust.
The team will lose All-NCAC Special Teams Players of the Year (P) Annee ‘22 and (K) Jacob Handley ‘22 on special teams, three of the five starting offensive linemen, and 6 starters on the defensive side of the ball.
Still, the team will be heading into next season with the expectations no different – conference championship, playoff berth, and keeping the Monon Bell at Wabash. The team has the returning talent to do so, highlighted by the return of quarterback Liam Thompson ‘24, who will be looking to build off of a season where he won NCAC Offensive Player of the Year.
Throughout the season, it became apparent that, although Thompson was the engine that made the offensive attack go, the talent at skill positions matured and will continue to improve besides him. Most notably, Cooper Sullivan ‘24, who received All-NCAC First Team Honors, will return as the go-to option for Thompson. Derek Allen ‘24 will also return to a wide receiving corps that has grown continuously this past season.
The offensive line will see some changes, as well, with (RT) Smith and (LG) Thomas Bolen departing. Joe Mullin ‘23, who is now a 2x All-NCAC First-Team player will return to an O-Line that features Nathan Pairitz ‘23 and Brandon English ‘23. Returning players, such as Cam Ford ‘25 and Bryce Adams ‘24 will become key players who will challenge for starting spots. Two of the three leading rushers for the Little Giants will also be returning in Snyder and Cade Campbell ‘24. As the season progressed, the two continued to improve. With the adjustments made on the line, it will be well worth monitoring how it will shape out over the course of the off-season.
While most of the talk from fans and students arises for the historic pace and talent the offensive side of the ball has had for the last two years, the defense is what stole headlines in the back half of the season.
In an uncharacteristic season for the Little Giant football program, the team allowed 30.6 points per game (ppg), while allowing 409.5 yards per game (ypg) to opposing offenses. With Kamron Ferguson ‘22 and Jose Franco ‘22, who have been staples of the Little Giant secondary, departing, it will require the coaching staff a challenge in replacing so much experience, skill, and security at such a key position.
All three levels of the defense will require the youth to step up, as Buresh and Marsh are just a few of the players who defined the Wabash identity on defense. Some players to look out for include Will Netting ‘24, who, after transferring to Wabash, earned All-NCAC Honorable Mention for his breakout performance in the Little Giant secondary. Defensive lineman Will Olive ‘24 and Lineback Joe Rios ‘24 plan to increase their role on the defense, as they and Cornerback Avery Epstein ‘25 emerge into the emerging leaders of a youthful, yet high-ceiling Wabash defense.
As Head Coach (HC) Don Morel enters into his 11th season with the program (7th as HC) and the Little Giants still are a reputable program on and off the field, the outlook for next season should be one of patience, cautious optimism, and conference championship hopes.