It was a miserable game, a 7-6 defeat.
Tommy Wyatt remembers it well.
“For me, it was a reality check,” the Overbrook High School senior recalled. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what position you play, you can get pulled out of a game.
“I was humbled by the experience. I had to earn everyone’s respect back. I had to show them that I was there to be the starting quarterback and lead the team.”
Wyatt was benched during that Colonial Conference matchup against Audubon. It proved to be a valuable lesson, something that stuck with him as he finished out the season and looked ahead to his senior year.
Now, on the eve of playing his final regular-season home game Friday night against Haddon Heights, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is the Rams’ undisputed leader.
“As a former quarterback, when that happens it can mess with your head a bit; you start to doubt yourself,” first-year coach Frank Wilczynski, an assistant coach last year, said. “Going into this season, Tommy knew it was his team and he really prepared. He met with me a lot over the summer trying to get a grasp of what we’d do offensively.
“He attacked it full throttle. He knows this is his last chance to prove himself and doesn’t want it to be about potential anymore. He wants to prove he can play at a high level.”
Through the first four games, Wyatt has demonstrated his ability to lead. He’s completed 69-of-112 passes for 902 yards and nine touchdowns, throwing just one interception.
“Instead of talking about what I could do, I want to show it,” said Wyatt, who holds a college offer from West Point.
“I want this to be my best season not only because it’s my last season, but because I want to leave high school on a good note. We haven’t had a winning season since I’ve been here. We’ve had two wins for three years in a row and I want to leave with a winning season.”
Overbrook’s last winning season was 2003, when the Rams finished 8-3. Since then, they haven’t won more than four games in a season.
Wilczynski has seen Wyatt’s improvement over the last year. He’s given the senior more freedom to run the offense and direct the Rams toward achieving their goals.
“He’s made tremendous strides and all the credit goes to him,” the coach said. “He put in a lot of time in the offseason and went to a lot of camps. He studies film.
“I’ve given him more of the reigns to our offense. He’s setting the protections up front, making the directional calls for our run game based on what he sees in the box. We’ve put a lot of stuff on his back and he’s doing a fantastic job with it.”
Wyatt credits the members of his offensive line – Chris Galloway, Steven Capone, John Quigley, Nick Powell, Zack Romano and Andrew Miller – for helping him succeed.
“All of my teammates for that matter,” he added.
“I’ve made strides with my leadership and confidence. As the season went along last year it was lacking more and more. I told myself that if our team was to come together it was going to have to start with me.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org