WAYNE — A year ago at this time, the Wayne football players were motivating themselves with talk of winning a playoff game — something the Bulldogs had done only twice in their history.
They accomplished it with a first-round victory last November, bowing out the next week to Morrison, 27-26.
And that only left them hungry for more.
“We just think of how we lost to Morrison by one point in the playoffs,” said senior running back Josh Way. “That's what motivates us through the summer. We talk about it, watch the video of it. The sting is still there.”
Way and quarterback Sam Martin were a big reason for last year's 8-4 record. Way rushed for nearly 1,800 yards, while Martin added more than 1,000 passing yards and almost as much on the ground.
Now, the Bulldog duo is focused on more success this year, with the hope of helping to build Wayne into a perennially strong football program — and make other people notice.
“Last year in the preseason, we were picked to finish last in our district, and ended up winning it,” said Martin, a 5-foot-11, 195 pound junior. “We've definitely been taken lightly a lot.
“Sometimes last year, I felt like teams weren't giving us their best game, because they thought they could come in here and roll over us. I think this year will be a different story.”
Wayne won three games total in 2007-08, then finally got back to the playoffs in 2009. Last year's team won in the first round for the program's first playoff win since 1994 — when it reached the third round.
Coach Brandon Sharp will rely on the talents of Way and Martin with hopes of taking the program to the next level.
Way has the talent to be a starting running back at just about any high school in the state. But the 6-foot, 205-pounder is a bruiser at the Class A level.
“Once he got it figured out last year, he was tough to stop,” coach Brandon Sharp. “He's gonna carry the ball 20, 25 times a game. He's gonna be our workhorse. He's an exceptional athlete.”
Martin stepped into the starting QB role as a sophomore, using his combination of intellect and athletic ability to manage the Bulldog offense.
“He's extremely smart,” Sharp said. “He made a 31 on the ACT as a sophomore. It's good to have an intelligent kid like that running your offense.
“He does a great job getting us into the right plays with audibles at the line. He was farther along as a sophomore than any quarterback I've had.”
Sharp was on the 1994 team that won Wayne's previous two playoff games, and he's very committed to making Wayne a regular power.
“The talent level is there. It's taken us a few years to get the attitude right,” Sharp said. “Winning one playoff game a season is not what we want. We want to be deep into the playoffs, and every year I've been here, our goal has been a gold ball. That's all we think about.”
Duo they most resemble: Phineas and Ferb Wayne running back Josh Way and quarterback Sam Martin are committed to building the Bulldog football program into a winner. And it's been a quick construction job, turning around a program that won only two games when Way was a freshman. Maybe Way and Martin took some tips from Phineas and Ferb, the animated Disney characters who regularly construct some fantastic new project in a day, always agitating their older sister. Wayne had only won two postseason games in its history before Way and Martin came along. Last season, the Bulldogs were district champions and reached the second round of the playoffs.