Star transfers hoping to lead WL Western to another successful season in 2017
Walled Lake – While Walled Lake Western lost several key players from last year’s team that advanced to the Division 2 Final, expectations remain the same for the Warriors in 2017, thanks in large part to a pair of high profile transfers.
Sam Johnson a quarterback from Southfield A&T and Spencer Brown, a lineman who spent the previous two years at Walled Lake Northern have both joined Western since the end of last season and hope to lead the Warriors to similar success this fall.
Western head coach Mike Zdebski said that the process of acclimating both Johnson and Brown to his team’s program has been a slow one as it would be with any player playing in a new system, but added that he expects both players to play key roles in the Warriors’ success this fall.
“Slow and you’ve got to try and be patient with them,” he said. “They’re such high level athletes and you know how you expect those guys to do everything right, right away, but they’re learning and they’re kids. They’re both juniors and they’re both young, that’s the hard part. As they come along, we come along as a team.”
This will be Johnson’s third year as a starting quarterback after serving as the starting quarterback in his freshman year at Southfield high school, before being the starter as a sophomore for the new Southfield A&T high school a season ago.
Johnson said that while there is a lot to learn for a quarterback when it comes to picking up a new playbook, he feels that he’s been able to catch up relatively quickly during the offseason and preseason.
“I felt like I picked it up pretty fast,” he said. “Being the quarterback of a team, you have to learn things quickly, you’ve got to be different. So it’s just comprehending everything and the repetition of it.”
Zdebski said that he Johnson’s done a lot to improve his game in the short time he’s been with Western, but most importantly, he has emerged as a leader for the Warriors’ offense.
“He has more athletic ability than what his perceived reputation is,” he said. “He’s faster than his perceived reputation is, bigger and stronger than the perceived reputation is. God blessed him with a lot of talent, when he was coming out of middle school, height, potential, all of those things. I think he’s done a nice job of working to develop all of those skills, working to develop on his vocal leadership in terms of speaking up and taking charge because that’s going to be important for us offensively as well. He has got to take charge.”
Brown is coming off a whirlwind offseason that saw him commit to Michigan State after receiving 23 offers as he became one of the most sought after offensive line recruits in the state of Michigan.
With the recruiting process now behind Brown, he said that Johnson and himself, along with the rest of his team have put in plenty of hard work to prepare for the upcoming season.
“I feel like we came in here and worked hard every day and didn’t do just the average stuff,” he said. “Not everyone wakes up at 5:30 in the morning to come in and watch film at 6:00 and then go lift weights and come out here. We put a lot of time in since December so I think we’re going to be ready. Everybody’s working hard and we just have to work together as a team.”
After Brown made a name for himself as a defensive lineman in his first two years at the collegiate level, Brown burst onto the scene as a top offensive line prospect during the offseason and is now ready to anchor the Warriors offensive line.
“I think he looks great as an offensive lineman,” he said. “That’s why he’s already got the offers, he can move his feet, so he’s there. Defensively, he’s going to play the flat back and play with his hands, he’s a typical big kid, stand up, peak around and see what’s going on. But as he plays with a flatter back on the defensive line, he’s going to get better and better as a player. But on the offensive line, he’s got great length and he’s very athletic for 6-foot-6, 300 pounds.”
The Warriors will also have a pair of key returners playing alongside Brown on the offensive line in three year starter Joey George and two year starter Ryan Dickinson as well as wide receiver and linebacker Justin Thomas and sophomore receiver Abdur-Rahmaan Yasseen.
Zdebski noted that while the Warriors lost several key contributors off of last year’s team that finished runner-up in Division 2, the goal remains the same and that’s to compete for a state championship on a year in, year out basis.
“Once you’ve been there, that’s all your goal is,” he said. “It’s been that way since the 90’s and it hasn’t changed. That’s always the ultimate goal, to win a state championship, but to prepare one game at a time, take it one game at a time, try to get better.”