Small in numbers, Wood Memorial seeks fresh start after canceled season


Small in numbers, Wood Memorial seeks fresh start after canceled season
OAKLAND CITY — Wyatt Hunt crouched under center and made an adjustment as he gazed across the line.
The ball was snapped and he handed it off to a running back, who ran through a hole and headed downfield.
There was no one waiting to stop him.
A year after having its season canceled because several players were suspended or expelled for bullying, Wood Memorial only has 17 players. Two are currently out with concussions. That, of course, isn’t enough bodies to have 11 on each side of the ball.
The only time they can practice against someone is in one-on-one drills. They're just glad to be playing football again.
“It’s really challenging but we have to do what we have to do this season,” said Hunt, who is one of two seniors on the roster. “With fewer people, you can’t do as much. You kind of have to go against air.”
Wood Memorial opens a new season Friday when it hosts Rock Creek Academy (0-2). The Trojans scrimmaged Pike Central in the preseason and played a junior varsity game Week 1 against Paoli, but haven’t run onto the field for a varsity game since 2015.
They haven’t won since Oct. 18, 2013. That’s a 21-game losing streak that doesn’t include the forfeited season.
There were supposed to be five seniors this year, but one decided he didn’t want to play anymore and two transferred because they doubted there would be a team.
Small in numbers, Wood Memorial seeks fresh start after canceled seasonHunt and Mason Williams are the only ones left. They’ve tried to recruit others, and some have stuck around, but a few already dropped out. The basketball players who are coming off a sectional championship also have chosen not to play because injury risk isn’t worth it.
Plus, a handful of the 17 have never played organized football before. While the shortened six-game season isn’t by design — the Trojans couldn’t find opponents to field a full schedule — the extra practices have been necessary.  
“We’re so young,” coach Bret Kramer said. “Not having a season last year, even our seniors don’t have more than sophomore experience. We’re trying to play catchup, basically.”
Kramer has coached in the Wood Memorial system as an assistant for 27 years. He doesn’t work in the school system and never had high aspirations to be in charge given the time investment.
Caleb Cherry resigned as head coach in November, though he didn’t cite the hazing investigation as a reason. The Trojans hired Derek Archer, who is North’s girls track coach, in January. He then resigned in March.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Brewster requested to meet with Kramer in May almost out of desperation.
“I’m not saying if you don’t take it the program is going to fold,” Brewster told Kramer. “But the program really is in dire straits and we need somebody who cares about it.”
There weren’t any teaching jobs open in the district, so few had applied. Coming off a scandal, Brewster also wanted someone older and with good values.
Kramer eventually accepted. His four assistants are either his former players or have coached with him before. He is invested in the program, no matter how difficult recent history has been.
“I would love to coach at Gibson Southern,” Kramer said. “They’re everything you want a football team to be, but we’re trying to get to the corner. We’re on our way.”
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Williams, a lineman, said he truly enjoys coming to practice every day. His fun-loving attitude has eased the learning curve for his younger teammates because he and Hunt aren’t barking orders when they mess up.
The first goal was fielding a team. The second is playing a game. The ultimate one is getting everyone to play again next year.
“I’ve played since I was 5-years-old and not being able to play that one year sucked,” Williams said. “Getting ready to pad up again and play my senior year is going to be so great.”
The hazing scandal cast a negative light on the entire high school, not just the football team. Over a year later, the Trojans feel the dark cloud is gone.
There are barely enough players to field a team. But there is a team. Ultimately, all they want to do is play football again.
“We’re not around the corner yet, but we can see the corner,” Kramer said. “We’re going to make the turn.”


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