By Maurice Patton
Winners of the 2020 TSSAA Tennessee Titans Mr. Football awards were decided prior to postseason play.
So Destin Wade’s playoff performance won’t figure into his chances to walk away with that hardware at the Dec. 8 luncheon.
But there’s no doubt his efforts have played a massive role in Summit’s return to the Class 5A state championship game, and will have a say in whether the Spartans conclude that second straight appearance with a crown during this weekend’s BlueCross Bowl contest against Oak Ridge.
“He’s definitely one of those kids that, as a coach, you might get the opportunity to coach once,” said Henry County’s James Counce Jr., the most recent coach to watch Wade end his team’s season. “You might, if you’re lucky, you might get to coach a guy like that sometime in your career.
Since the calendar turned to November, the junior signalcaller has put up numbers that make his regular season look relatively pedestrian, even as he paced the 2019 state runners-up to a 9-1 campaign that included four ‘COVID’ wins.
In victories over Hillwood (42-6), Region 5-5A rival Columbia Central (28-14), Beech (36-29) and Henry County (35-21) – the last two on the road – Wade has accounted for 1,258 offensive yards and 16 total touchdowns. He’s gained 72 percent of the team’s total offense and all but five of the Spartans’ TDs.
|Rushing||Passing||Pass TDs/ints||Total yards||Team yards|
|vs. Hillwood (42-6)||3-44-1||5-8-85||3/0||129||401|
|vs. Columbia Central (28-14)||26-242-3||7-12-81||1/0||323||389|
|at Beech (36-29)||29-194-1||13-17- 218||4/0||412||448|
|at Henry Co. (35-21)||24-221-2||6-9-173||1/0||394||507|
|Playoff totals||82-701-7||31-46- 557||9/0||1258||1745|
“He’s definitely a guy that they could probably be OK without, but they’re really danged good when they’ve got him. He is a difference maker,” said Counce, whose team led 14-7 early in the third quarter of their semifinal matchup Friday before Wade led a 28-point second-half outburst by throwing for a game-tying score and running for two in the final eight minutes.
Wade, the only Class 5A Mr. Football finalist still playing – Knoxville Central’s Kalib Fortner and David Crockett’s Prince Kollie are the other two candidates – accounted for just three scores in Summit’s most recent victory, after running and passing for at least four in each of the Spartans’ three earlier wins. He had a hand in all five touchdowns while rallying his squad for a 36-29 quarterfinal triumph at Beech.
“The first thing you notice when you come out there is his size,” Hillwood coach Tom Moore said of the 6-4, 205-pounder. “You can’t tell on film how big he is. He’s a huge kid. Then the second thing is how well he runs, how well he moves. He’s got good lateral movement, he can accelerate. You think you’ve got an angle on him, and he’s past you and he’s gone. We said he’s like a Cam Newton out there.
“You’re certainly concerned with him dropping back and passing, throwing the ball, but we were more concerned with him running the ball. You’ve almost got to ‘spy’ a linebacker or a safety when he drops back to pass.”
He’s been dangerous in both facets offensively – throwing for 557 postseason yards with nine touchdowns (and no interceptions), while rushing for 194 or more yards in each of his last three outings.
“I’d say he seemed more hungry in the playoffs,” Central coach Jason Hoath said after Wade rushed for 242 yards (seven short of his season high, set in the opener at Independence) three scores during Summit’s second-round victory. “Not that he wasn’t in the regular season, but you could tell he was definitely kicking it up a notch in the playoffs.
“He’s had a heck of a season. The fact that he’s a true dual-threat quarterback – it’s a lot more difficult when you have to defend all 11 guys as opposed to 10, when your quarterback is a running threat. He’ll definitely play a big role; he’ll be the key to their offense. They’re fundamentally sound. They’re going to play ‘responsibility’ football, they’re not going to make a whole lot of mistakes. They’ve got a group of guys that play well as a team and rely on each other. You add an elite athlete on top of that? That’s a good combination.”
Coming behind a regular season that saw him compile 713 rushing yards, 713 passing yards and 18 total TDs in parts of six games, Wade’s fall-long performance has undoubtedly earned the attention of Joe Gaddis and the Oak Ridge coaching staff in preparation for Friday’s 7 p.m. game at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
“He’s a great athlete, a great football player,” Gaddis said. “He’s a great running threat and passing threat. To watch him throw all the passes he throws, with accuracy – he’s special, a great quarterback.”
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.