192 wins and two state championships are just a sliver of what Mike Hevel was able to accomplish during his tenure as Head Coach for the Waverly Bulldogs. A coaching career that spanned 36 years, Hevel left his mark on the community. That is evident by the farewell tour he received not only by Waverly but by peers throughout the state. The void left by his retirement will be hard to fill, but his successor Nick Fraenza is no stranger to the program. Fraenza, a longtime assistant, will get the opportunity to continue the tradition that was set during Hevel’s 26 years at the helm.
Replacing nine seniors off a team that finished 9-2, and saw an 8-Man DII quarterfinal appearance will be a challenging order. Fraenza will be joined on the coaching staff by Tyler Williams and will keep most of the same schemes and philosophies. That will help the transition not only as new coach but also to where he will be replacing five starters on offense, and six on defense.
Top returners from last year’s team are Christian Decker and Eric Skillman. They will anchor a line that hopes to replicate some of the firepower that the Bulldogs were able to put up last year, averaging nearly 45 points per game. Wes Patterson will be vital to the offense success, an Honorable Mention League selection last year, look for that role to increase this year.
Waverly was predicted to finish fourth in the Lyon County League by easternkansassports.com coaches poll. A loss to Madison 20-0 kept Waverly from a league championship, the battle of the Bulldogs in week two will be essential in the league race again this year.
We spoke with Nick Fraenza before the season began.
SEK-sports.com: You were an assistant to Coach Hevel for several years. What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to take over the program from him?
Nick Fraenza: I am very honored to take over. He has been an excellent mentor to me not only as a coach but also as a teacher. He has meant so much to athletics in not only Waverly but all over the state. I just hope that I can continue teaching the young men on this team as well as he did.
SEKS: What are some of your goals for year one?
NF: I want to continue the success we have had over the last eight years. It would definitely be nice to make a playoff appearance again this year, but number one I just want to see these kids step into the roles they are built for and see what they can do.
SEKS: Largest obstacle to overcome in 2019?
NF: We lost nine seniors, including two 8-man All-Stars. Replacing them will be challenging, but we have some kids that are ready to step in.
SEKS: What is the biggest strength heading into this season?
NF: We should be able to move the ball well. Our offensive line is pretty good and has looked solid in summer workouts. They should be able to open some open holes for our backs.
SEKS: Individuals that stood out during summer camps/workout programs?
NF: Wes Patterson, Christian Decker, Zach Skillman, and Damian Foster
SEKS: Game on the schedule you are most looking forward to?
NF: The first one. Lebo is always a fun game and will be a good test for us.
SEKS: What will define 2019 as a successful season?
NF: we are definitely looking for some wins and to make playoffs again this year. We have some holes to fill, but as long as we have kids step and show what they can do, we can win some along the way. I think we will find success and meet our goals.
Be sure to follow the Waverly Bulldogs team page for results and content all season long.
Thank you to Coach Fraenza, and good luck to the Bulldogs in 2019.