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With Community Behind Them, Undefeated Wilson Ready for the Big Stage

There’ve been plenty of close calls in Bill Atlas’ 13-year tenure at the helm of the Wilson football team, but none more heartbreaking than their 45-44 overtime loss to Southwestern in the Class C semifinals a year ago.

This season, however, is different, and as the Lakemen currently sit at a perfect 9-0, the monkey is finally off their back.

Thanks to a 26-21 win over Portville in last Friday’s semifinals, the Lakemen punched their ticket to the Section VI Class C title game and will be playing at New Era Field for the first time since 1990.

“It’s good to finally get there,” Atlas said. “In years past it’s been [Cleveland] Hill twice in my early years, and then the last two years it was Southwestern. So, I guess the fifth times the charm.”

Waiting for them in the championship, which will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9 at New Era Field, is the team that’s led them to their demise the past two seasons: Southwestern.

It’ll take a strong performance from the Lakemen in order to take down the powerhouse Trojans, but it starts with their trademark defense, which is allowing an average of just 10.1 points per game.

“We just have to play our brand of football and lock down on defense,” Wilson defensive lineman and leading tackler Declan Faery said. “We’re able to play fast, we’re able to play to the ball, and we all know where we’re going to be. It’s just a great unit.”

The Lakemen offense will be just as key.

Led by quarterback Bobby Atlas and running back Brayden Dunlap, the Wilson attack has gone from averaging 24.4 points per game in their seven regular season games to 31.5 in their two postseason matchups.

If there was any time for an offense to click the best it ever has, the playoffs would certainly be it.

“We’re efficient at our short game stuff, we really don’t have to bank on those long passes,” Bobby Atlas said. “The key is eliminating turnovers, being able to hold onto the ball. We’ve been pretty good at that.”

A common theme for this Wilson team has been the players’ familiarity with one another and the brotherhood among them. Many of them have played together since they were young, and that chemistry has helped get them to where they are.

“We’ve been playing with each other for forever, Declan has been my tight end since like third grade,” said Bobby Atlas, who has thrown 31 of his 92 completions to Faery on the season. “To do this with thirty of my best friends has just been really fun. At some points, it’s not even about the game, it’s just about your friendships.”

With a tight knit group of guys on the field, a just as tight knit community is behind them. With this being the first time in 29 years the Lakemen are playing at New Era Field, expect to see plenty of orange in the stands on Saturday night.

“Everyone is super excited. I’ve gotten a lot of well wishes from a lot of alumni and even current community members,” Bill Atlas said. “People are super excited to get on the bus and get down there.”

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