by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKEFIELD — Evan Brabrand has not taken a snap as a Wakefield quarterback in two years, but once the Wolverines season ended in the second round of the 4A state playoffs last November, he knew this would be his team in the fall.
The senior has been leading Wakefield in 7-on-7 passing games and scrimmages this summer in preparation for the upcoming season.
The quick reads and matchups won’t be anything like football this fall, but they serve as a good warm-up for Brabrand to get ready for Friday nights.
“As the summer has gone on, I have started to feel more in place and feel like I can lead my team,” Brabrand said.
Brabrand played behind center as a freshman on the Wolverines junior varsity team but has been a linebacker for most of his high school football career.
This season, he is making that adjustment from the other side of the line, filling the void left by Connor Mitch, now at the University of South Carolina.
“It’s different and I have had to make some adjustments,” Brabrand said, “but I am excited.”
“The guys have been working really hard to help me out, and that has made the transition a lot smoother, even though I still have a defensive mindset at times.”
“After playing defense, it has helped me know some of the tendencies and coverages better, which have helped me attack the defense as a quarterback,” he said.
Brabrand is ready for the challenge of leading the Wolverines this fall and he knows he has big shoes to fill at quarterback. Mitch threw for more than 4,000 yards and 55 touchdowns last season.
“Connor was an amazing player and one of the best ever to come through the Cap 8 and even the state,” Brabrand said. “I’m not trying to replace him, I’m just trying to be me and help my team compete every game.
“We lost a lot of talent but have a bunch of great guys on the team this season,” he added.
Wakefield, which finished 2012 with a 10-2 record, is returning just one player on offense and four on defense, making the entire team almost new.
“Every year, you have a new team and a new team identity,” said Wolverine coach Rod Sink. “We are learning who we are and who’s going to be who and who’s going to do what.”
“Last season, we didn’t even know who all of our receivers would be, and we had about 5-6 who were capable of catching the ball,” Sink added.
The adjustment for Brabrand as the team’s new leader has been a big learning curve for him, said Sink.
“He doesn’t have any shoes to fill,” Sink said. “I tell Evan to just be Evan. He’s not replacing Connor because he can’t replace him. All we want him to do is to play his game.”
“If he plays quarterback like he plays linebacker, I expect he’ll be fine, “Sink added. “He’s a tough, aggressive kid.”
Offensively, nothing will change from last season. Sink’s plan is to drop back and pass.
“Evan has a good arm,” Sink said. “He doesn’t mind running either — and is a better runner than Connor.”
Wakefield will also be without their leading receiver Jordan Fielleteau, now at the University of North Carolina. Fielleteau accumulated more than 1,400 yards in the air a year ago.
This season, Sink said, he is looking to see who will step up as receivers.
Senior defensive backs Mike Shelton and Nick Dennis along with senior Josh Lowery are also listed as wide receivers and should see action on both sides of the football.
Jake Butler, a senior linebacker, might also line up as a receiver, said Sink.
The Wolverines’ running game will be solid again with junior running back Kelton Whitehead returning. He chalked up more than 700 yards last season.
Senior David Chavis can also run with the ball and will be a factor in Wakefield’s backfield.
On the defensive side, Shelton, Dennis, Butler and senior Tevin Hargrove will be prominent.
“Mike is explosive and has a knack with the football,” Sink said. “He’s quick as lightning.”
Sink calls Dennis the most explosive. “If we want a big play, Nick can make it happen,” Sink said.
“Jake is very smart and his intelligence helps him become a better player,” Sink said.
Hargrove brings tenacity to the team. “He’s undersized but plays hard,” Sink said. “He does everything you ask him to do.”
Sink said he is also counting on Julian Drew, a junior middle linebacker coming up from the jayvee team, to contribute.
“He’s a coach’s dream with a great attitude,” Sink said. “I’m looking forward to watching him play.”
Last year, Wakefield put a lot of points on the board and was expected to win. This season, Sink said he doesn’t feel the pressure to win 11 games.
“We’re feeling ourselves out,” he said. “We’re small but we’re faster. We’re not talking wins and losses. Instead we’re talking, ‘if you compete, you will have a chance to win.’
“There are no warm up games. We’ve got a good bunch of players with good attitudes and they are a joy to coach but they just have to figure out who they are.”
“We’re growing up,” Sink added. “We’re a young-old team that will need momentum for good things to happen this season.”