HUBER HEIGHTS — The tradition of Wayne High School football is on full display inside the locker room at Heidkamp Stadium. Photos of Wayne greats from the past line a wall above one row of lockers. Banners list the team’s playoff appearances and state runner-up finishes.
In decades of memorable teams and players, the program has experienced few, if any, victories like they one they earned Friday in the 2023 season opener. The featured 15 touchdowns, 970 total yards and 109 points, the most in a Wayne game since at least 1998.
Coach Roosevelt Mukes addressed the team after a 58-51 victory against Fairfield on the turf at Heidkamp and summed up his feelings.
“Keep battling, stay together and great things happen,” Mukes said. “I’m so proud of you.”
Fairfield beat Wayne 41-24 in the season opener last season. This time, Wayne grabbed an early 21-0 lead that was but a distant memory as an avalanche of touchdowns began in the second half. After a defensive stop by Fairfield on the first possession of the half, the teams combined to score touchdowns on seven straight offensive possessions.
There had been seven scoring changes when Wayne freshman Jamier Averette-Brown took the kickoff 80 yards down the sideline in front of the Wayne bench for what would turn out to be the game-winning score with 8:01 to play.
“He saved us, man,” Wayne quarterback Tyrell Lewis said. “He blessed us.”
Wayne’s defense got its first stop of the second half on the ensuring possession. Then another freshman, Jaydon Heinrich, kicked a 28-yard field goal with 1:43 to play. The ball hit the top of the crossbar before skidding over. Those were the last of the game’s 109 points.
Fairfield lost a fumble near midfield in the final minutes as Wayne clinched the victory.
“At the end of the day, it was just us saying together,” Mukes said. “We talk to them all the time about how it’s a team sport. Sometimes you’ve got to pick your brother up, and that’s what they did. But first and foremost, I give honor to God. Without him and these guys and coach (Jay) Minton, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in.”
Mukes, a 1985 Wayne grad, succeeded Minton in 2019. The Warriors have finished 3-7, 5-3, 8-3 and 6-5 in his first four seasons.
Wayne hopes a memorable opener propels it to greater success this season. The play of Lewis should increase the optimism. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 372 yards with five touchdown passes. He also ran for two scores.
“That’s the funnest game I’ve ever played,” Lewis said, “and also my best game.”
His top target was fellow junior Teaunn Hunter, who caught nine passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
Fairfield quarterback Talon Fisher put on a show as well. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 24 times for 144 yards and three scores.
Fisher threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Noah King with 15 seconds left in the first half to cut Wayne’s lead to 28-22. Then Fisher ran nine yards for a score on Fairfield’s first drive of the second half to give the Indians their first lead.
“Our kids showed some resilience obviously and overcame some early adversity,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “We had two quick turnovers on the first two drives and were able to battle back to take the lead a couple of times. It was back and forth. There at the end, we didn’t make the plays to win the game, and they did. We scheduled this game for a reason. We want to play this game. We want to play good competition to get us ready for the stretch run in the conference.”
Wayne plays at Pickerington Central in Week 2. The Warriors won the matchup 10-9 last season.
Fairfield plays its home opener against Sycamore next week. Fairfield won 41-0 last season.