XENIA — Looking for a spark, Xenia football coach Trace Smitherman gave a sophomore defensive back the reigns of the offense.
It was likely the right decision. Or perhaps the “wright” decision — as in Tremell Wright. Since he became the starter in a week four game against Sidney, Xenia’s offense has become less predictable as the multi-dimensional Wright forces defenses to respect the passing game and his ability to run while keeping other teammates involved as well.
That’s a big reason the Bucs, who started 0-4, have won two of their last three games including the school’s first playoff win in team history last week at Tecumseh. They head into Friday’s second round game at top-seeded Winton Woods in the Division-II Region 8 playoffs, exuding confidence on both sides of the ball. Xenia is seeded 17th.
“I knew I could open up a few more things running the offense,” Wright said. “When we open it, the teams have to adjust to us passing. We can throw the ball a little. We can also run it down their throat.”
That’s been quite obvious the last three weeks. In a 17-12 win at Butler, Wright threw a 50-yard touchdown pass, ran for 23 yards and a TD and gave the ball to Ramon Browder 22 times for 115 yards. In a 14-13 loss to Tippecanoe two weeks ago, Wright scored on school-record tying 96-yard TD run while Browder broke open for a 36-yard TD run.
In the historic playoff win last week, Wright completed four of six passes for 97 yards, ran for 91 yards and two scores, and made sure Browder, who ran 28 times for 127 yards and a score, got his.
“To try to stop both of us … we’re both pretty good at moving downhill getting yards,” Wright said, also crediting Xenia’s blockers, especially for his record-tying run.
“It was all up to the offensive line,” he said.
Smitherman likes what he has seen from his QB of the present and likely the future.
“He has the ability to that stuff (96-yard run) at any moment,” he said. “Obviously a catalyst on the offensive side of the ball. He understands winning and losing. He does a great job that way, as far as being ready to go.”
Wright played quarterback in middle school and had taken a few snaps here and there earlier this season. But as Smitherman and the coaches began to evaluate the offense, they felt he had, uh, the “wright stuff” to take over.
“We’re always trying to make sure we’re better tomorrow than we were today,” Smitherman said. “Had a senior at QB, did a fantastic job for us. We wanted to make sure he was represented properly. People look at things a little different, and say he was pulled. He’s getting an opportunity to play in other places. We’re continuously looking at our guys as they grow.”
Now firmly entrenched on offense, Wright will barely see the sideline. He was already productive in the defensive backfield, recording 45 tackles, while recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass.
“We’ve got a heck of a defense,” Wright said. “I like defense better. I think that’s my side of the ball. I like to hit people. (But I) do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
Wright and the defense will likely need to do some heavy hitting against the state-ranked Warriors, state runner-up in 2017 and semifinalist in 2018. The Warriors have the No. 2 rushing offense in the Eastern Cincinnati League, averaging nearly 170 per game and is seventh in the nine-team league in passing, at 128 per game. That’s a little deceiving as games with 71 and 61 passing yards brought the average down.
Friday’s winner plays Edgewood, which advanced by forfeit over Troy when the Trojans had to cancel the game due to COVID-19.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.