West Shamokin's Wingard proves worth
It's safe to say that when West Shamokin is playing on Friday nights, Andrew Wingard will be on the field.
Wingard, a junior running back and outside linebacker for the Wolves, again will start on both sides of the ball and figures to be one of the more important players in West Shamokin's drive for its first WPIAL playoff spot.
The numbers back up Wingard's importance. Last season, he was the Wolves' leading tackler, and his 899 yards led the team in total offense.
Those numbers don't surprise West Shamokin's first-year coach Jon McCullough, the team's defensive coordinator a year ago, who said the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Wingard might quietly be establishing himself as the Wolves' best all-around player.
“Andrew is the all-around solid ballplayer. He runs hard, his blocking has improved, and defensively he's able to defend the pass and the run,” McCullough said. “He's asked to do a lot, and I expect him to be a playmaker for us.”
Wingard shares those high expectations, but when asked directly about the potential for a big season, his first response was focused on areas where he can still improve.
“I want to be better than last year, so I've got to keep working harder and harder,” Wingard said. “I need to get better at tackling and reading holes. I had a lot of tackles last year but I also had a lot of missed tackles, so I'm trying to improve on that.”
McCullough agreed with Wingard's self-assessment, but he also pointed out that some of the missed tackles came when another player might not have been in position to make a play.
“One of the things he does very well defensively is getting off blocks. He uses his hands real well,” McCullough said.
“He was our leading tackler already, but he's improved now at taking better angles to the ball. He was coming in out of control sometimes, and while he made some plays, he left some others on the table. But through our first two scrimmages this year, it seems like everything is clicking for him.”
Wingard enjoys the physical aspect of the game, both as a ball carrier and a tackler. With greater expectations this season at West Shamokin, the intensity of practices has risen — and that suits Wingard well.
“It's been more intense, with a lot more hitting,” Wingard said. “We had an intrasquad scrimmage on the last day of camp that got really intense, and that was great for the team. It felt like a game situation.”
Perhaps Wingard's best quality is his team-first mentality. Even though he is likely to be one of the stars this season, the junior seems to get the most enjoyment out of seeing his team excited and performing well.
“Just waking up at 6 a.m. every day (during camp) to be out here with the boys is great,” Wingard said. “When one of us makes a big play or a big run, whether it's me or (junior fullback) Zac (Horner), it just really lifts the whole team going and gets morale up.”
As quickly as Wingard is to credit his teammates, his coach is just as quick to give his two-way leader deserved praise.
“He's a quiet leader,” McCullough said. “He does everything you ask, and he definitely leads by example. He's one of those kids where, as a coach, you wish you had 10 more of him to put on the field.”