By Randy Whetstone Jr.
Photos by Damon Atherton
When Male’s current senior class were freshmen, Head Coach Chris Wolfe knew three years later he would end up with a small senior class. On average, Male has had somewhere between 45 and 50 seniors each year. His current senior class started at 31 and that number dwindled down to 16 at the start of their 2017 season.
Instead of searching for upperclassmen leaders, Wolfe has relied on the versatility his current senior bunch has. It’s one of many early obstacles the Bulldogs have worked to overcome so far.
Four games into the season, Wolfe discovered that he had a resilient bunch on his hands. While dealing with a small senior class, matters became worse when first-year starting quarterback Cam Chesner went down with an injury early in the year. Running back Garrett Dennis stepped in to take the snaps, and even displayed a nice outing versus Doss when he threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns, along with 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Despite some early challenges, Male (3-1) is still sitting as one of the top teams in class 6-A, and the offensive line has been dominant despite returning only one starter. Male has run the ball for 935 yards in four games thus far, and their coach credits the offensive line’s stability. “It starts with the line, and even though we have four new starters in there, they have been impressive. Then you take into account the running of Garrett Dennis and Henry Vestal. Those are the key factors.”
He believes the line of scrimmage will determine whether Male can contend for a state championship. As they look up in the rankings at Trinity, St. X and Pleasure Ridge Park—who are all ranked above the Bulldogs in their respective class—they know they have more work to do since all three schools are on their 2017 schedule. Not to mention that Male has already been shutout by Trinity, 22-0 at home.
So far the defense has shown some good signs. They have given up only 482 yards on the ground and allowed 53 points per contest. And on the offensive side of the ball, Ethan Bibb has put up big numbers in four games. He leads the team with 22 receptions, 207 yards (51.8 yards a game) and one touchdown. He’s been a key weapon to Male’s passing attack.
“First of all he has tremendous speed, and he has big time playmaking ability,” Wolfe says of Bibb. “He’s been really special in the return game and as our quarterback play develops, he will be a real threat in the receiving game. He has made a big jump. He had a big game last year, having four touchdowns against Trinity, so he has stepped up in big games.”
This Male team is similar to the 2013 Male team that had few seniors, but had very strong sophomore leadership personalities within that group. Wolfe says this year’s team reminds him of that one, as Male will depend on key underclassmen to carry the load. VT