LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Friday officially marked the halfway point of the 2023 6 Sports Two-A-Day coverage.
Stop number nine took us to Panther country where coach Rob Zimmerman was as excited as we’ve seen him going into a new season. It tells you all you need to know about Dewitt’s talent in 2023 and the theme surrounding their squad this year, is speed.
Elliott Larner is slated to be the starting quarterback as a junior and has a plethora of skilled guys at his disposal like senior running back Rece Baker and wide receivers Jensen Ridley and Jadon Bender. Bender is only a sophomore and has already received an offer from Central Michigan.
For the first time ever, DeWitt held a media day to preview the season so naturally the players decided to have a little fun and try their hand at being on the other side of the camera.
“So I am here with Jensen Ridley and Jayden Bender, you guys play for DeWitt football and you have a lot of expectations clearly going into the season,” said Rece Baker. “How would you say being a senior receiver and a sophomore receiver, you know you guys are together a lot so how does that work for you?”
“I mean, I don’t know, we are just building a bond and we’re used to each other and building a bond,” Ridley said.
“It is good,” Bender said. “He is a good leader for me and helps me out with a lot of stuff and people are going to be seeing a lot of 11 and two in the end zone this year.”
Not only was it media day for the Panthers but it was also picture day, so we had to know what post everybody was striking.
“The Heisman pose,” Baker said. “The Heisman pose I had to do it.”
“Oh I wish I could have done one,” Elliott Larner said. “That one [the Heisman pose] would have been a good one, but I just did like this and threw my muscle up there.”
Moving on to stop number ten, we had to pay a visit to the Waverly Warriors who enter year number two under Coach DeYeya Jones. After building a solid base in year one, the Warriors are welcoming back 22 seniors from last season’s 4-5 squad and if you remember they started the year 3-0 with their first win of the season coming against Lansing Catholic. It was a game many people did not anticipate they would win and in year two, he is sticking to his process.
“For me, coming here it was getting these guys to realize that you can’t just show up on Friday night,” Jones said. “You have to show up when nobody is looking and that is one of the things that we tried to do this summer and winter is to get these young men to show up in the weight room and show up to skill training. Because if you get better as an individual than the entire team gets better.”
“With Coach Jones, he always makes sure that everybody is good and everybody has their mind straight,” Jahi Wood said. “He has brought so much light into more people and is actually getting people to like football more and want to be out here. He has inspired us and tells us quotes every day about what we should do and what we can do better in. Like today he told us ‘make your mind stronger than your feelings.’ So when you are on the field you always have your mindset to go farther.”
“It has been great and stuff has been a lot better,” Justice Dungey said. “He is just opening up a lot more opportunities for us, giving us a lot more discipline, and has brought together a great coaching staff. Our program is getting way better with him around.”
When taking over the Warriors program, Jones was on a mission to change the culture surrounding the team. Some of the players told us today that guys didn’t put a priority on attending team lifting or condition before Jones came into the picture. This past off season the team says they were grinding in the weight room and running up to four times a week.
“I feel like our whole defense and offense are just straight-up dogs,” Wood said. “I don’t think nobody, to me I think they are just going to have to make it a track meet. That is all I am going to say.”
“A few of them have gotten faster,” Jones said. “I think some young men will surprise people this year but the strength itself I think is the biggest change. We have gotten stronger as a team but you never know what will happen. If you underestimate an opponent they will smack you in the butt, so I won’t do that but we do have some speed and I don’t know how it compares to other teams but we are definitely stronger and faster than we were last year.”