Football Player of the Year: Williamstown senior Wade Inge

After finishing 5–5 in 2017 and getting knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs, the Braves committed to making sure the 2018 season was far more memorable. Wage Inge put the work in in the summer and performed remarkably during his senior year to lead his team to a championship season.

Wade Inge fueled Williamstown’s memorable season with his weekly dynamic performances on the ground this fall. Inge, a senior committed to play at Delaware State, ran for a school record 304 yards and four touchdowns in a 56–20 win over Rancocas Valley in the South Jersey Group 5 championship. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The first inkling there was something special about this year’s Williamstown High School football team may have come during Week 3 of the schedule.

Ten months after seeing a 5–5 season end with a first-round, Group 5 playoff loss to Millville, the Braves throttled the Thunderbolts. They scored the first 28 points of a lopsided 35–6 win to improve to 3–0.

But senior running back Wade Inge, who ran for two touchdowns in that win over Millville, said the first sign that good things were coming in 2018 occurred over the summer.

“We had a mindset coming into the season, that we wanted to set one goal,” he said. “Of course everyone has individual goals, too, but the one team goal was to get a team championship, no matter what it took. And in the offseason we didn’t just talk it, we worked. We lifted in the offseason, we did our sprints, we came in during the summer and there was never any complaints.

“We didn’t have any egos, not to say there were any egos before, but it was all business, we were focused on one thing. … Of course you talk about trying to be undefeated, trying to win every game, taking it step by step, winning championships. But as it progressed, it was just like a movie playing out. Everything fell into place. We worked hard in the offseason and the end result was a championship.”

Behind Inge, a workhorse back who put up a record-setting performance in the title game, the last game on his home field, Williamstown captured the South Jersey Group 5 championship in 2018, solidifying itself as arguably the best team in South Jersey. For his own efforts — 1,255 yards rushing on the season, 20 touchdowns, and a couple of eye-popping performances over two talented teams — Inge is the Sun Newspapers 2018 Football Player of the Year.

“Growing up a South Jersey kid, just to hear that, to hear the news, it’s really exciting,” Inge said. “It’s hard to keep my emotions in check when talking to my parents and everyone. Everyone is just really, really excited and happy.”

Wade Inge made a habit of rising to the occasion in crucial games in 2018. In addition to his record-setting performance in the South Jersey Group 5 title game, Inge ran for three scores and three touchdowns in a win against eventual South Jersey Group 4 champion Shawnee. (MATTHEW SHINKLE, The Sun)

Inge, a Delaware State commit, worked with Williamstown quarterback J.C. Collins to form one of the most lethal tandems in the state this fall. Both ran for more than 1,200 yards and combined for 36 touchdowns.

Inge’s performance in his final game on his home turf, in the South Jersey Group 5 title game against Rancocas Valley, was nothing short of sensational. He ran for a school record 304 yards and four touchdowns in a 56–20 win.

The record-setting performance came a month after Inge recorded three touchdowns and amassed 205 yards on the ground in a 48–14 win over Shawnee, the eventual South Jersey Group 4 champions. In trying to explain his propensity for peak performance against the top teams, Inge simply said it’s all about “big-time players making big-time plays in big games.”

But what does it feel like when an athlete is in the proverbial zone, as Inge was against Rancocas Valley, running for four scores of 20-plus yards?

“It was the biggest game of the season at that point,” Inge said. “It’s amazing, honestly. You see, especially as a running back, you see holes open up and you see defenders and you try to make them miss. You feel like you’re untouchable, feel like you’re unstoppable.

“And the energy that we had from the student section and the crowd just in general was amazing. Everything was electric. It was like we were on top of the world.”

Williamstown’s undefeated season ended in its final game of the year, a Group 5 bowl game against Sayreville at MetLife Stadium. But even that produced a memorable moment in Inge’s remarkable senior season.

“I scored the first touchdown of the game and then (younger brother, Williamstown freshman Turner Inge) ran down there and made a tackle on (next play) on the kick off,” he said. “We had a good family moment.”

It was the first season the Inge brothers got to play together, since they were always separated by age and weight as youth football players. And they got to play with their dad, Wade senior, the Braves wide receivers coach, on the sidelines, too.

“It was beautiful, beautiful, just a time period that the school and town aren’t going to forget, but also one my family won’t forget, it was great for us,” Wade said. “We told everyone all season, it’s what we said, we’re not going to get this back, we’re never going to play together again. … You’re never going to get this opportunity again to play with this group of guys, so cherish the moment and make it memorable.”

(MATTHEW SHINKLE, The Sun)