Monday, August 21, 2017

FOOTBALL: Wagner is Providence’s unsung hero

CLARKSVILLE – They are the players who stay out of the limelight and do not get the headlines.
They are the unsung heroes – the players who will do anything to help the team to win.
For the Providence Pioneers, their unsung hero is Jack Wagner.
The senior leader is making a major sacrifice for Providence this season. After playing fullback last year, Wagner is moving to guard for the 2017 campaign to help fill voids left on the offensive line. The Pioneers graduated four offensive linemen and a tight end from last season’s 6-5 team.
“I talked with (Providence head coach Larry Denison) about it and I think we agreed that it was best for the team,” Wagner said. “We lost four seniors from last year’s team on the offensive line, so those were spots that needed to be filled. (Providence junior fullback) Kevin Smith was the back-up fullback last year, but he’s a great player. There won’t be no loss there.”
On defense, Wagner plays a position that he is very familiar with as he is a middle linebacker.
Statistically speaking, Wagner was not one of the top tacklers on last year’s team with 39 tackles. But his outstanding leadership ability is the main reason why the coaching staff will allow Wagner to call some of the defensive plays during games.
“There are a lot of times in our game plans that we’ll let him call the defense sometimes for us. We’ve got all the faith in the world in him,” Denison said. “As far as playing linebacker for us, he’s been a rock for us in there. He’s very smart and can make all the calls for us defensively and get us aligned properly.”
Being a more effective leader is an item Wagner has concentrated on in the offseason. One thing that he has tried to become is a leader by example for the younger Pioneers.
“(Being a leader) is helping people in the weight room. It’s helping people during practice and on the field,” Wagner said. “But it’s also in the different things that we’ve done this season. We raised money for the (new tile floor in the locker room) as we have an annual mulch sale. That’s a big part of being a leader, too. You are putting in the work that’s needed and showing the younger guys how to be a Providence football player.
“As a senior, my role is to be a leader for everyone. Obviously, I’ve been here the longest. I think all eight of our seniors understand that role. On the field and off the field are where you have to step up and be a leader. It’s just not on Friday nights. It’s in the weight room, in the film room and at every practice.”
Wagner’s main goal this season is to provide something the Pioneers have not claimed in 10 years. That item is a sectional championship.
With perennial power Evansville Mater Dei no longer in the same Class 2A sectional as Providence, Wagner feels confident that the Pioneers can capture the sectional title for first time since 2007. Mater Dei has beaten Providence in sectional play the past two seasons.
“I’m really excited about our potential this year to win a sectional,” Wagner said. “It’s a new sectional and Mater Dei is not in it. But I don’t really care who’s in it because the team we’ve got this year I think will be able to compete (for the sectional title). It will be the first one in 10 years, so I’m really excited about that opportunity.
“I’d like to win a sectional obviously. I think that’s always the end goal. I’m really excited about the season because I think we have a good chance. We’ve got a lot of good players coming back and everyone is really excited and focused on winning the sectional.”
Wagner thinks a more difficult regular-season schedule will prepare his team to make a run at the sectional championship.
The Pioneers had a rough season opener Friday, losing at archrival New Albany 34-0. They will have another road rivalry game this coming Friday at Floyd Central. That will be followed by three consecutive Clark County foes in Silver Creek, Clarksville and Charlestown. The Dragons replace longtime opponent Jeffersonville on Providence’s schedule.
The Pioneers will have two new opponents at the end of the season when they travel to Class 2A No. 9 Milan on Friday, Oct. 6 and defending Class A state champion Linton-Stockton on Friday, Oct. 13. The Miners have been moved up to Class 2A this season because of the IHSAA’s success-factor rule.
“We picked up some good teams in Milan, Linton-Stockton and Silver Creek,” Wagner said. “I’m excited for the season just because some of the teams that we dropped were teams that never really competed with us. I think this schedule will test us more and get us ready for the postseason.”
Wagner thinks the matchup with the Dragons has the potential to start another intense rivalry for Providence. The Pioneers will host Silver Creek on Friday, Sept. 1 at Murphy Stadium.
“They’re a close team (in proximity). I know during my middle school days, they were always a team we had to compete with,” Wagner said. “It’s our home opener and I think it’s going to be a big night for both teams in terms of the excitement for that game.”
Along with being a solid leader on the football team, he is a model student at Providence and takes a lot of pride in that. Wagner entered the 2017-18 school year with a 3.85 grade-point average. He wants to study business in college.
“I think it’s a major emphasis at Providence and Coach (Denison) stresses it, too,” Wagner said about academics at Providence. “When you come to Providence, you’re not just coming to play football or compete in athletics. It’s a school first and I think everyone on the team understands that. We have study sessions before practices and that gives underclassmen the opportunity to ask for help from the guys who have been through those classes before. It helps add an emphasis on the student part of student-athlete.”
Denison is blessed to have Wagner in his program.
“His contributions to the program have been enormous,” Denison said. “He’s a very intelligent kid. He’s a model kid, both on and off the field for us.”

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