High School Football: Southeastern QB gets assist from PlayStation

Updated Aug 23, 2018
  • By Jeff Gilbert
  • Contributing Writer
Southeastern High School freshman quarterback Wade Eriksen runs the ball during a practice in South Charleston on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2018. MICHAEL COOPER / CONTRIBUTED

At least one quarterback in the video game generation has found a productive purpose for PlayStation.

Southeastern freshman Wade Eriksen entered all of the plays from his team’s playbook into Madden 25 and named the team Southeastern Trojans. He plays his team against NFL teams and wins.

“Before he ever ran one of our plays as a varsity player, he learned them on PlayStation,” Trojans’ coach Payton Printz said. “So he knows our stuff inside and out.”

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All that time on the couch in front of the flat screen has paid off now that Eriksen has gone outside to play. He will be the starting quarterback in year two of Printz’s rebuilding project.

“He’s very cerebral,” Printz said. “He’s got some unbelievable football intelligence.”

Eriksen will be running the spread under the direction of Printz and offensive coordinator AJ Woods, a 2006 Southeastern graduate. Woods came home to Southeastern after four years at Graham, including two as head coach. Printz made him the offensive coordinator last year and asked him to run the spread for the first time.

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The Trojans averaged 23.3 points in a 4-6 season, but Woods told Printz he didn’t know the offense well enough and the play-calling suffered. So Woods spent time at Middle Tennessee State with a coaching staff that runs the same offense.

“He knows his stuff inside and out and he works at it,” Printz said. “He works harder than any coach on the staff, and I’m not afraid to admit it to every coach who’s standing here right now because they all know it.”

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Eriksen’s primary targets will be all-state senior Charlie Bertemes and junior Tucker Eriksen, the quarterback’s brother. The receivers love the spread offense that Printz had great success with when he was head coach at Triad.

“Constantly running the ball has not worked well for us in the past, so now we spread it out and we let our athletes make plays,” Bertemes said. “And that’s what I’ve really enjoyed about this offense.”

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Bertemes caught nine passes during his first two varsity seasons. Last year he caught nine passes in three different games, 62 in all for 947 yards and 14 touchdowns and was first-team All-Ohio in Division VII. Most of those passes were thrown by Hayden Toops, but Bertemes has been happy to be playing with a freshman since their first throw-and-catch sessions in the spring.

“Coming in I was a little worried because I like the deep ball, and a young quarterback usually isn’t strong enough for that,” Bertemes said. “But he puts the ball where it needs to be, and he’s doing a great job.”

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Tucker Eriksen, however, has been playing catch with his brother since elementary school.

“I’ve always been looking forward to playing with my little brother,” he said.

Tucker is the backup, so Printz talked with him in the spring about the position. There will be no sibling rivalry over who gets to play quarterback.

“He said, ‘Oh, coach, he’s 10 times the quarterback I am,’ ” Printz said. “ ‘Don’t ever think you could play me ahead of him.’ ”

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The offense line welcomes back three starters in junior center Hayden McKee, senior guard Jason Rutschilling and sophomore guard Brady Spears. The running back situation is still being worked out, but this is a team that expects to have explosive nights on offense.

To compete for the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division title and be in the playoff hunt will depend on how the defense matures. The Trojans allowed an average of 31.8 points and are concerned about their ability to stop the run. They only graduated three defensive players so the hope is a year older and stronger will mean better play.

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Middle linebacker McKee has been the leading tackler for two years and was second-team all-Ohio as a sophomore.

“Playing in the middle gives you a chance no matter where the ball is to make a tackle,” McKee said. “It’s a place where you can really take control or lose it all. And I like the pressure.”

Tucker Eriksen and Max Long will man the strong safety/outside linebacker hybrid positions and Rutschilling will be the other linebacker. Bertemes will be at cornerback along with Timmy Tincher. The Trojans will also get junior linebacker Chris Thomas back early in the season. He suffered a devastating knee injury in the opener last season.

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After several losing seasons, last year has finally given the Trojans something to build on. They were more competitive with the exception of blowout losses to Mechanicsburg and South champion Greeneview.

“I’d really like to see a playoff run this year,” Bertemes said. “A league title will be real tough with Greeneview, but we’ve got the athletes and we’ve got the quarterback that can play with them. We’ll just have to see when that comes.”

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