Fred Wade started the season on a mission.
Twelve games into the season, the Oakland senior running back hasn’t veered off that mission.
His No. 1 goal remains a state football championship for Oakland. And right now he’s doing all he can to help the Patriots reach that lofty expectation.
Wade, who sat out his junior year due to an ACL and MCL tear, has rushed for 1,448 yards on 175 carries through 12 games. His 24 rushing touchdowns are a team high.
And his postseason statistics are mind-boggling. He has 420 yards and seven touchdowns on just 30 carries in two postseason wins.
Wade has had a larger role the past two weeks with Darryle Hood Jr. (hamstring) out of the lineup.
“I’ve gotten faster,” Wade said. “And I’ve gotten stronger. It’s basically just rehabbing, and doing speed training. I actually think I’m faster than I used to be.”
Second-ranked Oakland (12-0) hosts Blackman (10-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Ray Hughes Stadium in a Class 6A quarterfinal. The winner will play at the Maryville-Sevier County winner on Nov. 29 in the state semifinals.
Wade rushed for 590 yards on 82 carries as a sophomore before injuring his knee just prior to the Patriots’ 2012 season opener. He vowed then he’d be back stronger than ever this season.
But Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel questioned that entering fall camp.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s running this well so late in the year, but he was a little slower developing in the offseason — particularly in the summer — where we didn’t think he’d be ready,” McDaniel said. “When we started going full speed in pads, he got a lot more comfortable quicker than I thought he’d be.”
However, McDaniel also points to another aspect that helped Wade improve his running.
Since Oakland’s 9-3 win over Blackman in Week 9, the Patriots have done more work on their run game with the offensive line in front of Wade. That decision was made in an effort to allow Wade to see the holes that the offensive line was making each play as well as help run behind his linemen.
“The first play of the game (against Blackman) he ran too wide,” McDaniel said. “If he hadn’t, he may have taken that for a touchdown. “He was not staying on path.”
Wade ran 82 yards for a touchdown in the Patriots’ 35-0 shutout of Siegel on Friday night on Oakland’s first offensive play. It was similar to his 88-yard TD run to open the game with Riverdale in Week 0.
“That reminded me kind of the Riverdale game,” Oakland junior lineman Jack Jones said. “We were fired up.”
Wade acknowledged that the change in practice has definitely helped him on the field.
“I wish we would have started doing that at the beginning of the season,” Wade said. “I wasn’t following my tackles and my guards like I’m supposed to. I wasn’t hitting the holes where I’m supposed to be. Working on our paths have helped a lot.”