That’s a wrap: Wallace looks back his first season at helm of Titans, looks toward next season
Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
There were several questions to be answered for the West Forsyth football team this season after Coach Kevin Wallace replaced Coach Adrian Snow.
Many of those questions were answered after the Titans improved from a 4-7 record last season, where they lost in the first round of the playoffs, to finishing 8-4, playing for the Central Piedmont 4-A championship against East Forsyth and making it to the second round.
West Forsyth’s season concluded Friday with a 47-7 loss to Butler in Matthews. Wallace reflected on his first season.
Much of what happened in that game was because of what happened in a 46-13 win against Glenn on Sept. 29. Senior Desmond Jackson, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman who has committed to play at North Carolina, and senior Jordan Stephens, a 5-8, 150-pound receiver were both injured in that game and neither returned the rest of the season.
“I think it showed what positions we really need to develop better,” Wallace said. “You know, we kept on talking about it. You hate to harp on it, like I offensively feel really confident if we still had Desmond in there. Not to say that Keith Foster did a bad job, but there’s a difference between a sophomore and a kid going to Chapel Hill.
“And then when we really lost Jordan Stephens, you know, we had some receivers really step up, but at that point in the season in Week (6), I think it was when we played Glenn, Jordan was really coming on. You just sensed the confidence in his routes, confidence in what he was doing offensively. He wasn’t sinking through stuff. He was just reacting. You could tell that him and (quarterback) Bert (Rice) were really on the same page with a lot of RPO stuff.”
Stephens’ injury to his shoulder had a domino effect on the rest of the offense, which had five starting seniors.
“I truly believe if Jordan was in there the last three weeks of the season, some of those teams can’t play defense how they played,” Wallace said. “And when I look at a team like Butler, they don’t have a lot of depth either. Their starters are good, and when they went to a backup, it was like, ‘Oh. Who’s that kid?’
“So, I think we have to be able to stay more healthy.”
Wallace is pleased with the offensive line, running back Caman Chaplin, who rushed for over 2,000 yards this season, and Rice.
“Our O-line, I think, competes with anybody in the state, especially when you have Caman back there, and then Bert was coming on,” Wallace said. “Defensively, we knew we were going to be green on the D-line, and they stepped up throughout the year. We’ve got some good players coming up. And we’re really excited for the future in that position.”
With Chaplin leaving after finishing with 31 touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns receiving, that’s a big hole to fill.
“Thank gosh, we have a couple months to try and figure that one out,” Wallace said.
Wallace was almost speechless about Chaplin and the kind of season he had.
“Just what he’s done,” Wallace said. “I mean, like, the yardage he had this year with less reps, more explosive plays, and still missed one game (A.C. Reynolds) the beginning of the year. That’s crazy to see what he’s done.
“Great player, great kid. And we wish him the best of luck where he goes next year.”
Before the Butler game, Rice was 129-of-221 passing for 1,799 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“When I came in, there was so much negative talk about him,” Wallace said of Rice. “So, basically, we just tried to fix a few basic fundamental things, which I think really helped him. We tried to build more confidence in him as a quarterback because I think he was beaten down a little bit.”
Through 12 games this season at quarterback, Wallace is pleased with Rice’s progression.
“He does have a good arm. And he’s a smart kid,” Wallace said. “He’s a kid I really wish I had for a second year to see what we could go to.”
One thing Wallace definitely wants to improve next season is development at skilled positions.
“That’s an area we really have to fix moving forward of being consistent in the pass game,” he said. “I know there will be drops, but just the amounts of drops we had this year was unacceptable.”
Defensively, the Titans will lose linebackers Caleb David, 6-0, 210 pounds, and Davion Eldridge, 6-0, 200 pounds.
“That’s going to be a hard one,” Wallace said. “I think (senior) Marcus Wilson really came on towards the end. And he was the one that really got people lined up in the secondary and stuff. And (senior) Sean Davis, we’re going to miss. I mean, he had six or seven blocked field goals this year. And that’s a big thing. That won us some games.”
Despite four losses on defense because of graduation, the future looks bright for the Titans.
“We found a backup linebacker, which I think will be one of our starters next year. We need some depth there,” Wallace said. “And DBs, we found three or four that moving forward might be really good players for us. We like where we’re at. We’ve just got to develop more.”
After nearly a full year since Wallace was hired, there is much more of a comfortability aspect with Wallace, the coaching staff and players.
“It’s going to be big (next season) with the offseason lifting, and then the next step will be to take them into strength and conditioning program, which we did this year just because of some equipment that we got in, stuff now, and we’ll be able implement, which will I think will be even better for our kids,” he said. “We’ve got to develop in a couple positions. That’s going to be vital. That’s going to be part of our success in some of these questionable positions that we have right now.”
Next season will be full of new players, and it will almost certainly take on all of Wallace’s philosophies.
“We’ve got to truly develop and get through a full offseason, and move on,” he said. “The good thing is for our younger guys, they’re moving up the offensive, and defensive schemes are installed now. Now, we go back, and it’s not like the first day of spring ball where like you’re teaching the base formations.
“Our kids should know our base formations now. We’ll re-teach them, but we won’t have to spend a lot of time on that stuff. That shouldn’t be happening anymore. Now, we should be hammering home technique.”
West Forsyth is in the tough Central Piedmont 4-A, and it’s not going to get any easier.
“I think one area we’ve got to look at is our explosives,” Wallace said. “It will be more explosives on offense, and it will be decreasing explosives on defense. There’s games that we had a lot of turnovers. I think that’s just some fundamental stuff. There was games where we did well in the turnover margin, and the ones we lost, we did really bad in the turnover margin. So, I think those are two things we always look at are explosives and turnovers are the two biggest ones, the next ones being sacks and TFLs (tackles for loss).”
The next biggest thing for Wallace and his coaching staff is aiding his players in hopes of getting college National Letters of Intent.
The early signing period for football starts on Dec. 20 and runs through Dec. 22.
Also, Division I and II football players, including midyear junior college transfers, have until Jan. 15, 2024, to sign.
The regular signing period for Division I and II football starts Feb. 7, 2024. For Division I, it runs through April 1, 2024, and for Division II, it runs through Aug. 1, 2024.
“Basically, over that week of Thanksgiving, I’ll start evaluating our offense, and with our DC (defensive coordinator), we’ll have to do a full evaluation of the defense, and I’ll evaluate the special teams,” Wallace said. “Recruiting-wise, we’ll get the highlight tapes down, and coaches will start coming down either right after Thanksgiving. I can’t remember if it’s before Thanksgiving or after.
“So, we’ll start getting bombarded by coaches coming by. That should be the next thing, especially for some of the kids, for our seniors or even for the future, too. Some of our juniors and sophomores will maybe be recruited. That’s a big piece coming up.”