By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
When Woodrow Wilson senior Travis Matherly walks into Van Meter Stadium, he stops and looks at the names on the Flying Eagle Football Hall of Fame.
Names like Chad “Street” Sarrett, Mike Guilliams and Doug Legursky are enshrined in brick, serving as a reminder of the great lineman that have passed through Woodrow.
Matherly hopes to have his name there someday.
“You always want to be one of the best to play here,” Matherly said. “Whether it’s here, college, the NFL, whatever, you want to be one of the greatest. That’s why we play.”
Mattherly will be one of three returning seniors on the Flying Eagle line, along with Dakota Sizemore and Gus Haga, that coach John H. Lilly hopes will live up to the long tradition of Woodrow lineman who adorn the wall of fame.
They’ll do so while trying to replace 3-year starter Michael Bailey, who graduated in the spring and will be suiting up for Concord University this season.
“Mike was a good player for us,” Lilly said. “We’ve got three guys that have started for us last year in Travis, Dakota and Gus that we think are going to be pretty good.”
Joining them this season will be 6-foot-4, 331-pound junior, Ben Johnson.
“We think he’s going to be as good as any lineman we’ve had here since I’ve been here,” Lilly said. “He’s got as good as feet right now as Doug (Legursky) had, so ya know, we’re anxious to see how we does when we get him in the game.”
Matherly and company will be responsible for protecting new Flying Eagle quarterback, sophomore Brent Osborne and a host of offensive weapons including fellow seniors Donte Nabors and Chase Hancock.
It’s a dirty job — one that comes with little recognition — but that doesn’t bother Matherly.
“I mean, somebody has to do it,” he said with a chuckle. “Somebody has to block for them and when you’ve got players like that behind you, they always give us our due. Our players always know what we do for them.
“Brent’s a great player,” Matherly continued. “He’s worked harder than anybody I’ve seen. He’s throwing great. We just have great chemistry with them.”
Lilly was quick to point out, as good as Osborne is, his weapons around him are only going to make him better.
“He’s got a few 6-foot-5 receivers in NeQuan Carrington and Nick Deems and Hunter Foster,” Lilly said. “Of course he’s got Donte (Nabors) and Chase (Hancock) in the slots. So he’s got a nice little skill set of wide receivers to work with. He’s just getting down the timing.”
Chemistry won’t be a problem for the Woodrow offensive weapons. Nabors, Hancock, Deems, Carrington and Osborne all saw significant time for coach Ron Kidd’s Flying Eagle hoops squad last season.
“All the basketball players, we’ve been playing with each other for a while now,” Hancock said. “There’s no need to work on the chemistry. Nothing to be done. We’ve got the chemistry. We’ve got the bond. We’re all great friends. It’s a good feeling.”
The small, but experienced, group of Flying Eagles seniors will look to make a name for themselves after losing playmakers Andrew Johnson, Ramon Edwards and Cole Williams to graduation.
“Last year’s seniors are gone,” Hancock said. “It’s our turn to step up and to be the leaders and that’s what we’re going to do. Ya know, we can’t have last year’s seniors back, but we’re great players as well. It’s time for us to make a name for ourselves.”
Hancock, Matherly and the rest of the Flying Eagles hope to bring Lilly his first state championship — and the first for Woodrow Wilson since the Pete Culicerto coached squad defeated Fairmont Senior 6-0 in 1977.
For Matherly, it would mean more than his name on the Hall of Fame.
“It’d be everything. Everything,” he said. “It wouldn’t be any better than that.”
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.