ST. PAULS — Leading into high school football practice starting on July 31, The Robesonian’s sports reporter Jonathan Bym is publishing a countdown of the top 15 players in Robeson County, and St. Pauls’ Noah Wheeler comes in at No. 2 on the list.
After being a part of the rebound season last year for the St. Pauls football program, Wheeler is convinced that this year the Bulldogs can do even more with the cast of players it has.
“We’re going to better than last year. We’re definitely going to be better,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got more experience with the system. The system made us look good last year, and now it’s our time for us to make the system look good.”
As the reigning county offensive Player of the Year, Wheeler steps into his senior season as the starting quarterback once again after making the move last year from wide receiver. The accolades last year are now just the beginning, he said.
“It just makes me set my goals higher than I did last year,” Wheeler said. “It makes me want to do better. It’s not just about me, it’s about the team. I want to get out there and win conference and win every game that we can.”
With a second season awaiting him at quarterback, coach Ernest King has seen how Wheeler’s leadership as the head of the offense has been different this year.
“Noah is starting to see it a little better now that he has a year under his belt,” King said. “He’s able to tell the receiver what they need to do. He’s learning that sometimes as a quarterback that sometimes when it’s not your fault, it’s your fault. He’s starting to do that and encourage his receivers.”
Jokingly, King has a nickname for his dual-threat quarterback based on his leadership and how he has handled his role.
“I joke with him and call him Peyton Manning because he’s trying to be a student of the game, being dedicated, working out and be a leader,” King said. “He’s leading by example.”
Wheeler smiles and shrugs it off when he hears his coach call him that, but as an improved passer and more experienced on the system and his capabilities on the offensive side of the ball he knows what he’s able to produce for the Bulldogs.
“I’m feeling good and confident with myself with the year I had last year as quarterback,” Wheeler said. “I plan to have at least 2,000 yards passing and double my rushing from last year.”
King knows how invaluable the offense and it goes further than just his arm or ability to tuck and run.
“He’s a kid that’s going to do great things in our offense. It’s about staying healthy because he had some bruised ribs last year,” King said. “He’s focused on his senior year, and is trying to make sure that everybody else stays focused as well.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.