When you talk about Dayton area high school football bluebloods, one of the first schools brought up is Wayne High School. Wayne can be found nestled in the suburb of Huber Heights; since 1999, Wayne has made the state championship football game four times, including back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015. In their last four seasons, the Wayne Warriors have lost only six times, compiling a 45-6-1 record through the first nine games in 2017. Rarely do you see that kind of consistency in high school football.
Before I go into the details, you deserve to know a little about my history with Wayne High School.
Oldies 97.3FM was a home away from home on for me Friday nights for the fall and winter last year, and the station is the flagship for Wayne Warrior athletics. I was the board operator for Wayne football games for the 2016 season, all the way through to a sectional final loss against Pickerington Central. During the winter, I was the voice of Wayne Warrior Boys Basketball, a job that I held with great pride. In addition to wanting to cover a local powerhouse for my website, being able to return to the place that gave me an opportunity to live out a dream was especially exciting for me that night.
It was senior night at Wayne High School. The Warriors played host to a rival, the Springfield Wildcats. For some, it would be their last home regular season football game as a football player, while others, including Wide Receiver L’Christian Smith, will be playing on Saturdays next fall. For Wayne, a home playoff game was in play with victories in their final two games. For Springfield, a win against Wayne would all but clinch a playoff spot, but a loss would cost the Wildcats dearly.
Sadly, unforeseen circumstances prevented me from arriving at my usual time for the festivities. A combination of work obligations and Friday evening rush hour traffic led to a delayed arrival. As such, I was unable to cover the tailgating in enough depth to document in my article. I hope that I can return sometime soon to get the entire Wayne Fan Experience!
With the playoffs and bragging rights at stake, the field was set for a heavyweight fight between the Springfield Wildcats and the Wayne Warriors!
Good Samaritan Athletic Fields and Heidkamp Stadium is a mouthful to say, but a remarkable sight. Both sidelines featured bleachers that extended from endzone to endzone, and the seats looked as new as they did when the stadium opened. For the third time this season during the High School Fan Experience, every seat was filled for the game. Not surprisingly, the large crowd led to an intense atmosphere inside the stadium.
Once again, the concession selections were ample and diverse. Along with the typical burgers, hot dogs, and pizza, you could find Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, a personal favorite of mine. However, the highlight of the food options has to be the kettle corn stand near the stadium entrance. You could get a four-foot long tube of kettle corn, if you’re willing to wait in a line that never seemed to die down.
The paramount feature of the stadium has to be the cannon. While small in stature, the cannon possess the ability to jolt you no matter where you are on the Wayne campus. Measuring about a foot tall and just a couple feet long, the cannon is fired off just before the game begins, after Wayne scores a touchdown, and after Wayne wins the game. In nine weeks of high school football in 2017, Wayne is the first stadium I’ve seen that has their own cannon, and that is something that makes for a strong home field advantage.
The dedication of Wayne fans and parents can be summed up by simply observing that somebody had to watch the cannon and safely load the gunpowder. The idea that someone would sign up to watch over a cannon at a high school football game is crazy, but just goes to show how strong the love for Wayne football is in Huber Heights. While such a job is obviously dangerous and must be handled with caution, the cannon was watched over safely throughout the game.
Perhaps it was due to the game being Senior Night, but I was surprised to find the home bleachers already a quarter full at 5:45 when I arrived. In my experience, the stadium gates for high school football do not even open until 6, but that night was a special occasion. Well over half an hour before the game even kicked off, the home bleachers were almost entirely full. If that does not scream pride for your team and the players, I do not know what does.
With cowbells in hand, the fans in the stands were loud and proud from start to finish. The crowd at Wayne was energetic, engaged, and knew exactly what to cheer and when to cheer. Knowing that a home playoff game was potentially on the line, these fans came ready to roar at every big play, and they did not disappoint. I tip my hat to the Wayne fans for their incredible support of the Warriors that night!
In support of breast cancer awareness, the students at Wayne were clad in pink. Any students that had not shown up wearing pink did not have to wait long to fit in considering pink powder flew throughout the student section on a few occasions throughout the night. By the time the game was over, the entire front row of the student section was covered in the pink powder. If you had not known there was a game that night, you might wonder if the student section was the sight of a color run that day.
Before third down, a different song would play to get the students excited for the defense. Sometimes, it would be For “Whom The Bell Tolls”, while other times, “Jump Around” would play. Whichever song played, the students complied with a rousing cheer. Every third down, the cheers were overpowering from the Wayne students. The amount of sound coming from behind me whenever I would stand in front of the students on these occasions was ear splitting, which I will never complain about when it is in support of your hometown team.
Throughout the entire experience, even with all of the pink, with the talented cheerleaders, and with an undeniable love for Wayne, I was slightly underwhelmed by the Wayne student section. Please do not get me wrong, the students were proud of their team, and I could tell that they knew exactly what they were doing. However, I did not feel the same consistent level of support from start to finish that I have at other high schools in 2017. I know they can be better, and I would love to see them show me everything they have when I return in 2018!
If you want to be entertained by a group of musicians and dancers, then look no further than the Wayne High School Marching Band. They were one of the most fun groups to watch perform I have seen in a long time. From the phenomenal sound to the crazy movements, the Wayne Marching Band is an ensemble I cannot wait to see again.
I should have known that the band would be something special when I saw their initial march into the stadium. The drum cadence featured xylophones playing “Axel F”, the iconic song from Beverly Hills Cop, and the opening guitar riff to Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train.” Not only was the music vibrant, but the marching, as well as the dancing from the Warriorettes, was the most entertaining stadium entrance I have seen in many years.
Throughout the game, the Wayne Marching Band ended up playing a wide range of tunes. Between plays, the percussion could be heard playing the theme from “Halloween” and “Push It”. Meanwhile, the full band would perform songs such as “Long Train Running” during timeouts. To top it off, halftime featured a classic set list including “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Zoot Suit Riot”. Bravo to everyone in that show, I was blown away!
Wayne and Springfield has turned into quite a rivalry since Springfield consolidated their two high schools into one. In recent years, the annual Wayne/Springfield matchup often went a long way in determining who would win their conference. With Centerville running away with the conference in 2017, the Wayne/Springfield matchup would be for playoff positioning and major bragging rights.
Springfield would take the opening kickoff and proceed to drive down the field without much resistance. Only penalties would slow down the Wildcats as a 70-plus yard touchdown pass was nullified due to an illegal block in the back. Eventually, on third and goal, after the snap rolled on the ground, Springfield completed a crazy pass for the first touchdown of the game, giving Springfield an early 7-0 lead. It would be their only lead of the game.
Wayne would respond later in the first quarter after an interception of Springfield. After a touchdown was ruled an incomplete pass due to the receiver catching the ball out of bounds, the Warriors would end up completing a pass in the middle of the endzone to tie the game. From there, Wayne’s defense would take over the game.
Wayne would go on to outscore Springfield 21-6 through the rest of the game, due in no small part to their strong defensive secondary. Pass deflections, tight coverage, and two interceptions would keep Springfield’s offense from gaining any momentum throughout the game. In fact, after both Wayne interceptions, the Warrior offense would go on to turn it into touchdowns.
By the fourth quarter, Springfield appeared to be completely out of gas. While the Wildcat defense was able to hold Wayne in check during the final quarter, the Springfield offense was a complete nonfactor at the end of the game. After a final failed attempt to score by Springfield, Wayne took a knee to run out the final seconds of the clock, completing a 28-13 victory for the Wayne Warriors.
Despite the delays, I had a fantastic night at Wayne High School! The atmosphere was intense, as it should have been for such an important game between two rivals. While the Wayne crowd was superb, I have to give a lot of credit to the Springfield fans for making the trip down Interstate 70 to Huber Heights and cheering on your Wildcats just as enthusiastically as the home fans.
To top it off, the game was exciting until late in the fourth quarter when Wayne put the game out of reach. While it was not a blowout, Wayne did pull away at the end, utilizing their strong defense to run the Springfield offense into the ground. Both teams looked solid, and if the Warriors and Wildcats both end up in the playoffs, I will not be surprised.
Some of my Fan Experiences in 2017 have been fun and exciting, and a few have stood out on their own for special reasons. Those few are stadiums I would like to return to in the near future to experience another game and pick out things I missed. Heidkamp Stadium at Wayne High School makes the list of places I will undoubtedly be coming back to, sooner rather than later.