Michael Fleming’s distinguished college career at East Stroudsburg University had many highlights, including celebrating Senior Day on October 27, 2018.
It was also the day that head coach Danny Douds retired after 45 years as a head coach.
Jimmy Terwilliger, the 2005 Harlon Hill Trophy winner, pitched the final two games of Fleming’s career.
Fleming previously played for Steve Schiffert at Easton from 2011-14.
The standout offensive lineman is four years removed from playing days, but the influence of his coaches carries over into the next phase of his football life.
Fleming is in his first season as Wilson’s head coach. He is as prepared as any beginning teacher can be.
“I’m taking my experience from ESU and Easton,” Fleming said. “Fortunately, at ESU, I had Danny Douds sneak up on me on Senior Day and Jimmy Terwilliger for two weeks. I got to see that transition and how they did it.
“I took notes from that, and took from the way things were done at Easton, the mentality. I don’t know if there will ever be a good time to transition, but this year is a good time for me to take over.”
Fleming inherited a Wilson team that lost players who completed 17 of 18 rushing TDs, all but 13 of 2,075 passing yards, 113 of 119 receiving and eight of its top 11 tacklers.
The cupboard isn’t empty, but the Warriors will take on a new-look team that made the District 11 Class 4A playoffs the previous two seasons.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Fleming said, “but I think it came down to getting good staff to help out. A few kids played last year and showed us something as juniors.
“Even though we graduated most of our starters, they really stepped it up in the gym trying to change the culture. But there is a lot of work.”
1. Change of leadership
Jackson Millen capped off a memorable freshman season with a team-high 107 tackles, including a school-record 23 tackles against Bangor.
So what did he do? The linebacker hit the gym hard and added 20 pounds of muscle. This was part of the commitment made by the core group of returnees.
“He was fun to watch last year,” Fleming said. “I’m very excited about him. He also tries to help me change the mentality in the team.
Millen will also play defensively in attack as well as defensively in the central midfield position. Its engine has one speed, a good lesson for those looking to crack the starting line-up.
“I think we’re all excited,” Millen said. “We are still working on the new culture. We have new coaches, new freshmen, a lot of changes.
“I know we have great coaches and good players in the locker room. We are waiting for some of them to step up.”
Senior linemen Kenny Steckel and John Gillon are the other two returning starters and will be asked to be leaders.
Their words will carry weight with the influx of young players. Their actions will speak louder.
“Our seniors and captains last year were good leaders,” Steckel said. “We took it, let them lead. This year we are all putting in the effort.
“We all really want to win. We have a core group that has played both ways a lot. We are all hardworking, we know our tasks. Let’s see if we can do it.”
2. Who enters the starting roles
The plug returns to the center. He will also start on the defensive line. Gillon, who started eight games at left tackle last season, moves to right tackle. He will also play defensive end this season. Junior Seth Kissel, who started last season on defense, will also play offense.
Senior Chris Weston, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior transfer from Allen, will be at quarterback. Senior Jayden Fields will be among the recipients. Sophomore Nathan King will bat. Millen will be a wingback. Junior Ian Feket will be in the slot.
King and Feket are safe.
“It’s definitely a different philosophy,” Fleming said. “I took a lot of what Shiffert used from Easton, but with my own little twist.
“We work hard on them, we run, we do conditioning and we love them every once in a while. We make sure they know we care about them and make them feel welcome here because it can be better than their home life.”
3. Wilson Schedule (7 p.m. unless noted)
Aug. 27: Pen Argyl, 2:30 p.m
September 2: at the Palisades
Sept. 10: Saucon Valley, noon
Sept. 17: Lehighton, noon
September 23: at Bangor
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Oct. 1: Southern Lehigh, 2:30
October 7: on the Blue Mountain
Oct. 15: Pottsville, noon
October 21: in the north-west
October 28: at Notre Dame GP
Morning Call reporter Tom Hausnick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or email@example.com
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