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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wayne seniors have enjoyed unprecedented success

WAYNE -- The 2005-06 Wayne High School football seniors have already done something no other class can claim in school history. They've won a school-record 20 consecutive regular season games and are on the verge of a second straight undefeated regular season.

But, unless they win their final game, thereby capturing a Class AA state championship, 19 Pioneers will consider their high school football careers short of complete. Wayne, 8-0 and rated No. 1 in the state has two remaining games. The Pioneers play host to Chapmanville (3-5) on Friday and finish Nov. 4 at Logan before entering the playoffs.

For two Wayne running backs, Friday's Senior Night game against Chapmanville is just another game in their long and varied careers. Garry Roland and Dana Lycans spent their football careers at opposite sides of the limelight. Roland, a three-year starter, is enjoying the best season of his career but still just another productive season in a quality career. Three years ago Lycans was in the same position, battling for playing time. But injuries kept Lycans, the fastest Pioneer of them all, off the field the last two years. Finally healthy, the tandem has enabled Wayne to have two top-flight speedsters out of the backfield.

"Dana is faster than anybody on the team, and he adds a dimension to our offense," Roland said. "Most of us running backs run up the middle and between the tackles, but Dana has the speed to beat everybody to the outside. Nobody can catch him."

Lycans has always had speed to burn. Roland and quarterback Nick Newell tabbed as the Lycans the fastest player on the team. Lycans said sophomore rocket Rodney Endicott can give him a good foot race and the faster runner depends on the length of the race. But a broken collar bone kept Lycans' speed off the field as a sophomore, then a bout with meningitis the day before last season's opener ruined his junior season.

"This year has been really special for me because it's the first year I've been healthy," Lycans said. "Senior Night, in particular, I won't treat it any different, but I'm glad to finally be playing.

"I hated having to watch. I have been really rusty and I should have been a lot better. I think missing all that time caused me to not be as aggressive as I would have been. Sometimes I play tentative."

Basically, this is Lycans' rookie year with Wayne. Lycans mulls the what-ifs, but his 322 yards rushing is still second-best on the team and his 11.5 yards per carry leads the Pioneers. He also has three catches for 77 yards.

And Lycans is also one of Wayne's best defenders. He has two interceptions, a fumble recovery and two of his six touchdowns came on the defensive side of the ball.

"You can never have enough guys that are 6-foot-1 that can run and jump and that are smart. He definitely fits that mold," Wayne head coach Tommy Harmon said. "His attitude and willingness to do anything to help the team is an asset.

"He's got football speed. The thing about Dana is he can do a lot of different things. He has the ability to catch the football and run with the football after he catches it. He is in the right place at the right time and has a lot of experience even if its not high school experience."

Roland has only had one injury interrupt his playing time, a separated shoulder last season that forced him to miss six weeks. He still rushed for more than 500 yards and was second on the team in rushing.

This season Roland might be Wayne's most valuable offensive player.He has rushed for 879 yards and 20 touchdowns on only 115 carries. Most games, with Wayne ahead by at least four touchdowns, Roland has not even sniffed playing time in the fourth quarter.

By comparison, Coal Grove's Justin Hyland -- the Tri-State's leader in rushing with 2,151 yards on 368 carries -- carried the ball a total of 104 times the last two games and 156 times the last three weeks. Tolsia's B.J. Evans leads Wayne County in rushing with 1,155 yards but has 61 more attempts than Roland.

"Garry has understood all along that we try to have a multi-back system and he would be the last to complain about somebody else scoring. That, coupled with his willingness to block and do things for the team, makes him pretty special," Harmon said. "He has always been a factor in things but maybe not to the point that he has this year. But he has gotten to the point that he has this year because of everything he's done in the past.

"He's smart enough to know when he reads in the paper about other backs and their rushing attempts and big yardage that he could be one of those guys but we would also be risking injury and not developing the rest of our team."

So, if things go as planned, Roland and Lycans and the rest of the seniors will make a Senior Night appearance and build a big lead before giving way to the reserves.

"It's kind of depressing because you really don't think about (Senior Night) until the day comes and it really doesn't sink in until that night comes," Roland said. "We just look back on the hard work we put in year-round. If you remember anything it has to be the work we put in to build speed and strength.

"But we want to be different and a lot of teams go undefeated, but we haven't had any team win state. And we feel we are good enough to win it, and we want to look back and remember winning a state championship."

And Harmon is more concerned with getting his players through the regular season healthy than breaking any individual records. That would be a first for Lycans. And it would be in the Wayne seniors' best interest to have both running hard and fast in the postseason.

Then, maybe this tremendous senior class can add one more school first to its accomplishments.

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