The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009
Despite only winning one game in 2021, Wilson wants to build on the momentum it built towards the end of last season and hope the second year is the charm under Scott Meyer.
“No excuses, but with the real last start we were kind of scrambling for a while,” said Meyer, a Wilson alum who was hired late last summer. “We settled in at the end of the year and played decently. We were in an awful lot of games where we had a chance to win and we got worn out a little bit. Two of those games we lost in the final minutes. We weren’t far off.”
The Bruins are a young bunch again with only 10 seniors on the roster, but they have a solid group of upperclassmen who got a lot of experience as sophomore and junior starters.
“We’re hungry,” team captain James Ma’ae said. “We’re out for wins and everyone is tired of losing. We’ve got to lock in and do our thing.”
“Last year we weren’t really a team but a group of individuals,” quarterback Ian Bond said. “We weren’t practicing together going from station to station wanting to win and change that record. But this year we’re a lot closer because we’ve practiced more with a new level of intensity together. We’re pushing each other and we didn’t have that last year and it showed in the results.”
Bond also knows he must use his limited experience to lead a relatively inexperienced offensive group around him. With this height and strong arm, Bond wants to get the ball out of his hands fast to guys like Christian Chapman. The junior running back was ready to breakout last season when he got injured, and now he’s the starter after the transfer of Johnell Gray.
“Some of this transfer crap is so stupid but I don’t worry about it any more,” Meyer said. “We want guys who are going to be here. We’ve got a really good group of guys and the team chemistry is better.”
Johnathan Weston and Jalen Nelson will also get carries in the backfield alongside Bond, who will use his athleticism learned as a soccer player to move around the pocket and be a threat to run himself. He will also rely on the limited time he got on the field against St. Anthony and Long Beach Poly last year.
“Those two varsity halves made me more comfortable with the reads and speed,” Bond said. “For example on a read option play. The defensive end at the lower level I can sneak by them, but at the variety level I have to really make the right read.”
Finding a reliable wide receiver won’t be hard for Bond because his twin brother, Andrew Bond, is back after having a breakout sophomore season in the slot. Senior Shane Heiman, junior JT Kraemer and junior Dejon Harold will also be key returners.
“I’m super excited to connect with him a lot more this year and make it a special one,” Ian Bond said. “When I’m in the park I’m always throwing to him so his timing is nailed down with me. Any emergency option I know where he is. I can trust him with his route running and I know exactly where I need to put it. Having him as a receiver helps a lot.”
The Wilson offensive line is thin but led by some experienced guys like right tackle Hunter Houston, center Alejandro Rojas Guzman and Ma’ae who will have to play both sides of the ball because of lack of depth. Adrian Medrano and Christian Caesar will also be on the offensive line, and Caesar will also have to go both ways like Ma’ae.
Last season, Wilson’s defense struggled to stop big plays and that has been a point of emphasis in the offseason in terms of scheme.
“We want to be solid and not give up big plays,” Meyer said. “We don’t want our DBs in a position where they’re playing a ton of man with no help… but we’re going to try and attack and put our guys in the best position for what they can do.”
That ability to be aggressive without bringing a lot of numbers falls on the defensive line where the Bruins might have their most depth. Meyer said Kemarie Francis, Dorian Ortloff, Curtis Whiten, Christin Caesar, Isaiah Cazares, Demeitreus Allen and Alonso Kennedy could all play in the trenches.
Ortloff is a 6’8” 240 pound wrestler who is learning the game, and the Wilson coaches want to teach him how to disrupt offenses in space with his length.
Ma’ae said he’s excited to be working behind that big defensive line group, and with his outside linebackers Zaiamir St. Bernard and Jalen Nelson. St. Bernard is very rangy and athletic, while the sophomore Nelson has shown great potential and willingness to learn on the job. Underclassmen Chazz Sulsona, Joseph Sosoatu and Kaden Draper will also be in the mic, but other than the offensive line, the linebacking group is the thinnest on the team.
The Wilson defensive secondary is experienced like the receiving corps because it’s mostly the same guys playing both sides of the ball. Luca Lobo-Nasa, Hudson Deeble and Heiman are all returning starters. Deeble is back after having last season cut short due to injury, and Heiman may be asked to step forward and play some linebacker due to depth.
The Bruins don’t have a zero week game, so they won’t start the season until Aug. 26 when they host Redondo Union. They’ll then host Huntington Beach and travel to St. Anthony before starting Moore League play against Millikan.
“I want us to get in the playoffs, we gotta take that step this year,” Meyer said. “I know it sounds crazy but even at 1-8 we were so close last year. It would be a big step for this young group to make the postseason.”
8/26 vs. Redondo Union
9/2 vs. Huntington Beach
9/8 at St. Anthony
9/16 vs. Millikan
9/23 at Compton
9/30 at Cabrillo
10/7 vs. Long Beach Poly
10/14 at Jordan
10/21 vs. Lakewood
10/28 vs. Saddleback
QB Ian Bond
RB Christian Chapman
RB Johnathan Weston
RB Jalen Nelson
RB Samere Ellis
OL Alejandro Rojas Guzman
OL Hunter Houston
OL Adrian Medrano
OL Christian Caesar
OL James Ma’ae
WR Shane Heiman
WR Andrew Bond
WR Azaan Tabari
WR JT Kraemer
WR Cruz Heavin
WR Maxwell Barbee
WR Dejon Harold
DL Kemarie Francis
DL Dorian Ortloff
DL Curtis Whiten
DL Christin Caesar
LB James Ma’ae
LB Zaiamir St. Bernard
LB Jalen Nelson
DB Luca Lobo-Nasa
DB Jonathan Weston
DB TJ Moseby
DB Hudson Deeble
DB Shane Heiman
DB Andrew Bond