Athlete of the Week: Sherando’s Wagner providing spark for team

Nathan Wagner

STEPHENS CITY – Nathan Wagner has made the most of his opportunities this season.

The Sherando senior is starting at safety for the first time as well as being the back-up tailback. Wagner, who is in his second year on the varsity squad, said it’s been a nice feeling to be out on the field contributing.

“It’s been a great experience,” Wagner said. “I remember when I was younger I’d look up to the guys that start. It’s pretty cool being there yourself now after all that hard work. It actually pays off.”

Wagner, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 19-25, had a career-best game on offense Friday in a 47-12 victory over Jefferson County (W.Va.). He had 235 all-purpose yards. Wagner had two receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns and six carries for 135 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Sherando coach Bill Hall said that the Warriors wanted to get the ball on his hands on offense because of his ability to make explosive plays.

“He always seems to have a knack for making plays in practice and he has done that throughout JV coming up,” Hall said. “My job as a play caller is as kids show that they can make plays then I incorporate them more into the offense in terms of targeting.”

Hall said that because Wagner is so valuable in special teams and at safety they have to limit him some on offense.

Last year Wagner played some at safety as a back-up, but Hall said because of Wagner’s work ethic and dedication he knew Wagner could have a productive season for the Warriors.

Hall said that Wagner provides a change of pace at tailback along with starting tailback T.J. Washington.

“They complement each other well. They push each other to perform at a higher level,” Hall said. “He’s solid. He’s physical. He’s low to the ground. He uses the gifts he has. Because he’s a little bit vertically challenged – that’s a gift for him. He hides in there behind our big guys and he squirts through there and he doesn’t let one guy bring him down in terms of arm tackling and things like that.”

Hall said a good snap shot of Wagner’s ability was on his 84-yard touchdown run against Jefferson County.

Wagner appeared to be stopped, but fought through a few tackles, and cut back to the other side of the field and then raced down the sidelines for the score.

“I think that toss play shows you he’s not going to let one person bring him down,” Hall said. “He’s going to keep fighting and keep fighting. In the red zone we often put him in at tailback just because he’s going to give you everything he has up in there.”

Wagner also led the Warriors on defense against Jefferson County with 10 tackles, including seven solo tackles.

Wagner also plays soccer at Sherando and said he thinks playing each sport helps the other. He said that both require speed and stamina.

For the season, Wagner now has 23 carries for 280 yards, 12.2 yards per carry, and four touchdowns. He also has six catches for 192 yards, 32 yards per reception, and three touchdowns.

“Last year I switched to wide receiver coming out of junior varsity, where I played running back most of it,” Wagner said. “I didn’t feel like I had a shot at running back and also I wanted to catch the ball and actually play in a little more space, run some routes and I enjoyed that a good bit. This year I get to do both, which I love.”

This year Wagner is also a team captain, which he said is a real honor.

“I was selected team captain by my teammates. So I guess they see qualities in me that help them, which I’m very glad about,” Wagner said. “I try to provide some energy out there and encourage people one-on-one. I’m not much of a speaker, but I talk to everyone, encourage them one-on-one.”

Wagner is the third of four brothers. His older brothers, Josh and Zach, both played football at Sherando, and he said he has a younger brother, Joe, who is a freshman on the JV team.

Nathan Wagner said it helped having brothers who had played football at Sherando.

“They’ve been through it. They’ve kind of beaten the path for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to raise the bar a little bit on them.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com.