WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Davion Tillison has a state championship to his credit.
He would like to add more, with a little help from his friends.
“Big time,” said Tillison, a George Wythe junior, who won the Class 1 triple jump title in June. “I am very excited, trying to go to state. That is our goal.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior receiver and defensive back joins senior teammates Ravvon Wells and Cole Simmons as key cogs for George Wythe success in the season ahead.
“Of course we want to go to state, but you have to take it one game at a time,” said the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Wells, bowling ball of a back, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season. “That is everybody’s goal, but you have got to work hard. You have got to work hard, have great practices Monday through Thursday and execute on Friday.”
That is the plan for the Maroons, who will open the season on Aug. 30 by traveling to Radford, considered to be among the top Class 2 teams in Virginia. That is just part of a slate that includes five Class 2 and even one Class 3 teams among its nine-game schedule.
The Maroons lost a game when Bland County canceled its season due to lack of players.
“Everybody’s goal is to win the state, but you have to be realistic with what you have got…,” George Wythe head coach Brandon Harner said. “I just want to take it week by week and the work we put in, if they are willing to do it and we live up to the potential, that will take care of itself. That is my expectations right now. Go week by week, have fun doing it and let our hard work take us the rest of the way.”
Expect George Wythe – which finished 7-5 last season – to put all it has into those games, with Harner expecting much from Simmons and Wells.
“Cole has got a great ball, he is very athletic. He has got to be big for us. Ravvon was big for us last year. He has got to make those big plays again,” Harner said. “Those two kids have got to play up to their abilities and make us look good.
“You have got to have kids like that if you are going to win championships. You have got to have kids that make something out of nothing and they have got to do that.”
That includes Tillison (6-2, 175), who Harner said built confidence in the weight room, benching 275 pounds and squatting nearly 400, which helped in his path to a track championship. Wells is even stronger, benching 340 and approaching 500 in the squat.
“That is a good reason why I increased my numbers in triple jump and it did help me get faster and stronger, getting off the corner when I am a receiver and like playing man to man, being physical, all that is key to being great,” said Tillison, who combines with Braydon Thompson to provide the Maroons a lethal receiving duo. “I did catch a lot of passes in the past, but I still needed to work.
“Ravvon and Cole inspire me to be better seeing how they play on the field so I am grateful for that. I learn from those two and I keep going with them and I am glad we are going to try to go to state this year.”
Wells is an inspiration, not only with his work in the weight room, but his enthuasiatic approach to life has caught on with the rest of the Maroons.
“Ravvon is just a phenomenal kid. He is one of our strongest kids,” Harner said. “He is a phenomenal kid to be around. He is a good leader, he is very vocal. He knows what he has to do for this team to be successful. He is smart, he is intelligent, he does well in school. He is just one of those kids you need to have around.”
Especially on the gridiron, always going the extra mile to prepare for what lies ahead.
I have always got to improve,” Wells said. “Watching film, watching the other team, just learning whatever they are doing. They always try to scheme up something, you just catch something. You see that guard pulling and you see that slot back, if he just stutters a little bit, you know something is coming. You have got to study the opposite team that you are playing.”
Simmons (6-1, 170) admits to allowing his play do the talking. He’s also a key part of a defense that includes not only Wells and Tillison, but also Dorrien McMillian, Dorran Harmon and Connor Fowler.
“[Cole] is a scrambler, he is going to try to make things happen. Most of the time it is good things and every once in a while you are going to get bad things, but you know what, when you have a quarterback like that, you have got to take the good with the bad as long as there is more good than there is bad,” Harner said. “He has got a great ball. He is super-focused this year. He has got a lot of weapons to throw to.
“Cole has just got to take that leadership role. That is the big thing for him. He has got to learn how to speak up, keep his head up, don’t let bad things happen to him because it affects everybody else. For Cole to be as successful as we want him to be and this team to be he is going to have to step up and be that leader.”
He is ready for that challenge too.
“I feel like I run the ball a little bit better and I am reading my keys better, throwing it better,” said Simmons, in his second season behind center for the Maroons. “I am not that big of a talker, but I will lead by example…I am trying to get a ring, trying to get some interceptions as a corner and not let as many touchdowns go through.”
George Wythe is just three years removed from consecutive trips to the state semifinals. They would love to get back there, and take the next step. Much like Tillison did in June.
“Thinking that I was about to get a ring on my finger made me real excited,” said Tillison, who plans to try for another state title during indoor track season. “I was hyped up for it. It was a great feeling after I won. I feel like athletically you have got to be very committed and you have to put in the hard work. I stayed after practice just trying to improve myself and wanting to be the best.”
They want the same on the football field.
“We are expecting big things from these kids. We are George Wythe and we compete for championships and that is what it is about and that is what we are out here trying to do this year and we will see how it goes,” said Harner, who said he has 37 hard-working kids on his team. “Barring no injuries with everybody, we could be a tough team to beat if we come out here and play up to our potential.
“We have got to live up to our potential. That don’t take you very far, you have got to live up to it.”