Ashe high alum reflects on championship experience
Last modified: Dec. 30
The defensive secondary had been in the same mindset the entire afternoon: stop the Bears’ option based ground attack.
“He wasn’t paying attention to the deep pass,” Wells recalled.
To get his man to bite on the fake, Wells ran a simple stop-and-go rout by acting as if he would block the safety, but instead zoomed past his man to haul in a deep touchdown pass to instill a little hope in an offense that had been lackluster most of the afternoon.
For any wide receiver to haul in a touchdown in an option offense is a rarity considering the ball is almost always guaranteed to end up in the hands of a back, but for Wells the score was of particular significance.
He had just scored a touchdown for LRU in a NCAA College Football Championship game. He would replicate the feat on a trick play where the Bears’ quarterback tossed the ball to a halfback, who caught the corners off guard by rocketing a pass to Wells for his second score of the game.
Wells, an Ashe County High alum, starts as a sophomore wide out for LRU in Hickory.
After a stellar season, the Bears had battled through a formidable field of opponents in the Division II Playoffs before earning a spot in the National Championship game in Florence, AL on Saturday, Dec. 21.
Although the Bears would fall to Northwest Missouri State, Wells said the 2013 season was one that would be easy to duplicate for future LRU teams.
“It was a tough locker room after the game,” said Wells. “There was a lot of disappointment, not towards the (outcome) of the game, but it was the last time we would be playing with our seniors. They had put in a lot of hard work.”
Even with the loss, Wells said the excitement and the atmosphere that hung heavy over the Alabama stadium that day didn’t relent as he reunited with friends and family after the game.
“It was crazy,” said Wells. “We were expecting a lot of people, but we were not expecting as many as Lenoir-Rhyne people that came. On game day, I got a lot of texts from people back home in Ashe County. It was great.”
For Wells, the championship experience didn’t really set in until a couple before kickoff when the players arrived in Florence.
“We all knew what we were doing,” said Wells. “It really sunk in when we got to the field and into the locker room.”
The Bears’ football program had not experienced this level of success or publicity for that matter since the late 1950s and 60s when the program brought home a NAIA title.
Fifty years later, the Bears were once again turning heads.
One week prior to the title game, the Bears had stalled a potent West Chester (PA) offense in near freezing conditions under a stinging drizzle on a blustery western North Carolina afternoon. The water that had begun to pond on the field reflected the eerie glow of the stadium lights as the Bears punched their ticket to the championship.
“That was the coldest I have ever been,” Wells said with a laugh.
That’s something for a player who endured many chilly mountain nights under the lights of Husky Stadium in West Jefferson.
“I made the mistake of wearing a long sleeve cotton shirt,” he said. “I will never do that again.”
Wells said the difference between the high school and collegiate game is more than apparent in the speed and physicality of the next level and admits he wouldn’t mind to see the football a little more in coming seasons.
“Everyone is coming off the ball a lot faster and harder,” said Wells. “It’s different tempo and speed wise.”
And as for his role as a blocker?
“You have to make your own fun with that,” he said.
Despite dashed hopes for a fresh LRU banner, Wells said the upcoming season looks promising, as well.
“This year, we lost a few seniors that were big impacts, but earlier in the year and throughout the playoffs when someone went down someone younger always stepped up,” said Wells. “I have high hopes for us next year.”