By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Whether Caden Wiest will be receiving hand-offs, hauling in receptions or even securing center-snaps, one top priority in Reeds Spring’s camp has been to get him the football.
Little wonder, considering the highly-touted junior tight end scored nearly one-third of the time he touched the ball last season. Wiest had six touchdown catches among his 21 receptions for 249 yards on his way to All-Big Eight East First-Team honors on both sides of the ball.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder with sprinter’s speed is a college prospect who has attracted an offer from Missouri State.
“We are going to figure out ways to get him the ball,” coach Andy McFarland said. “We can move him all over the place. We can also line him up in a slot, as a wide receiver or in our backfield as a fullback. He’s going to be there quite often. We’ve even snapped the ball to him as a ‘Wildcat’ in goal-line situations. It’s fun to see him get downhill fast. He will also be a key component in our running game by providing lead blocks for our backs behind him.
“College coaches who are getting paid big bucks will make the decision on where he projects (at the next level),” McFarland added. “The feedback I got from Mizzou was they’re not sure what he is, but he is something and he’s going to play somewhere.”
In addition to more touches for Wiest, Reeds Spring is looking for more points. The Wolves averaged 20.5 points a game through eight weeks last season, before their final two games were wiped out due to COVID-19 quarantines.
McFarland is optimistic Reeds Spring will put up more points due to the players’ familiarity with the pro-spread gap running game. This is McFarland’s second go-around with the Wolves.
“I think we’re going to score a lot more points this year,” McFarland said. “We improved a whole lot this summer. I was talking to our AD and was telling him we’re finishing July about where we were in mid-September last year. We’ve got guys now who have a level of understanding the offense. In that regard, things are going well.
“Last year, we didn’t get too far into the run- and pass-option stuff,” he added. “I’m excited about getting that going. The players we have fit into that scheme really well. We will need to be making the right reads at the quarterback position as well as along the offensive line. Those decisions will need to be made in a short period of time on every single snap.”
Reeds Spring returns key cogs throughout its offense.
Running backs Preston Blubaugh and Chris Daniels and wide receiver Evan Gross look to be viable weapons.
“Those two are going to get a lot of touches,” McFarland said of Blubaugh and Daniels. “Preston was injured most of the season last year. Daniels has a lot of speed. He was on our 4 x 100 relay that went to State.”
Gross had 14 receptions for 229 yards last season. He was a state-qualifier in the high jump in the spring.
“He was our leading receiver last year,” McFarland said. “He’s gained a lot of good weight.”
Center Blayne Blevins is back for his senior season and will anchor the offensive line.
“We’re excited about Blayne being back and the leadership he provides our offensive linemen,” McFarland said.
Blevins will be joined up front by Brayden Manning, Sebastian Michaud, Spencer Michaud, Eben Crain, Moses Barr, Tyler Yezefski and Lucas Wattenbarger
“I feel like with work and if those guys work together, they can be the strength of our team,” McFarland said.
McFarland likes Blandy Burall, a left-handed sophomore quarterback.
“He has the potential to be a really good player,” McFarland said. “He is working on making the right reads and building his confidence.
Wiest, a defensive end, and linebacker Adam Lewis headline Reeds Spring’s defense. They both will be three-year starters. Last season, Lewis posted 49 tackles, while Wiest collected 43 tackles, including four tackles for a loss and three quarterback sacks.
“Adam and Caden are best friends and will be playing alongside each other on defense,” McFarland said. “We lost a great player in (Big Eight East Defensive Player of the Year Colton Cramblett), but we’ve got somebody in Lewis who can step in and have an understanding of what is supposed to happen and where the guys around are supposed to be. He gets downhill fast to make tackles. We’re excited about him.”
Blubaugh and Daniels will join Lewis in the linebacking corps.
The secondary will be made up of Gross, Andrew Snyder, Addison Abshire and Easton Byrne.
“Easton is always where he is supposed to be,” McFarland said. “With the weight Evan has gained, he can make middle-of-the-field tackles.”
McFarland likes the depth of his defensive line, a group that includes Wiest, Evan Wilson, Moses Barr, Yezefski, Blevins and Spencer Michaud
“Our defensive line is a big group who we will have in rotation and will make a lot of plays,” McFarland said. “Caden will not be in a rotation. We’re going to keep him on the field as much as possible. He’s great against the pass and great against the run.”
McFarland is anxious to see how Reeds Spring competes.
“It’s hard to gage in the summer where you’re going to measure up with everyone else,” McFarland said. “But it’s been a little easier to get a measuring stick this year since we’ve been able to go to camps and compete against other teams. It’s been such an easier summer to be motivated and work hard. I think our guys are committed to improving and working hard every day.
“We need to remain consistent,” he added. “In order to be consistent, we need to do the little things right. If we can remain consistent, we can be a tough team to beat every week.”