Hilco Real Estate 6-2024

Sanders leads new-look Pirates receiver room

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Sports

Wylie graduates five senior pass catchers from last season, leaving a void at the position for 2023.

The passing game suffered through some inconsistent play early in the year, but found its footing in district play and progressed as the year went along. For head coach Jimmy Carter, the key this season is to establish a rapport early in fall camp to hit the ground running.

“The most important thing for our young guys is the possession routes and being able to handle the simple things at the highest level next season,” Carter said. “Even getting off the line of scrimmage I thought we had some issues and we want to see the guys handle some big, physical defensive backs to help our quarterback.”

One of the lone returning receivers this season is Martaveion Sanders, who caught two touchdowns last season. Sanders was third in receiving for the Pirates with 19 catches to go along with 208 yards through the air. The rising junior is poised to step into a bigger role, showing his explosiveness early in the summer workouts.

“He’s going to play both on the inside and outside a little more this year,” Carter said. “The speed of the game is something he learned a lot last season and it’s hard on sophomores who make the varsity team. Now that he’s going to make it he should be more comfortable and confident.

The team is working to find Sanders plenty of mismatches on the offensive side of the ball, as he can be explosive in the passing game.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s athletic enough to go get a fade route and do different things,” Carter said. “We’re going to move him around the field and find the right matchup each week.”

Along with Sanders, Jackson Draper returns after missing most of the season with a collarbone injury last season. Since returning to the fold this offseason, he’s impressed in offseason workouts and during June 7-on-7 drills as one of Wylie’s best receivers.

“He’s worked hard to get back into the swing of things,” Carter said. “He’s put in the work before and after practice every day to become a really good pass catcher. Jackson is smart, disciplined and he’s going to run good route and always be in the right spot.”

Draper has proven to have good chemistry on the field with starting quarterback Jagger Bale this offseason, something the Pirates will rely on as the season goes along.

“When a quarterback trusts a receiver it goes a long way,” Carter said. “Jackson is putting himself in positions to get open and catches passes, even if it’s a bad throw. Things like that are going to get him more opportunities.”

Beyond those two players, Wylie is cycling through a few younger players to step into larger roles on the varsity team this season. Mitchell George, Ahmad Hurst and Armand Calderon have all shown flashes of their potential during 7-on-7 workouts, while Dawson Cleveland returns at tight end after backing up starter Dane Farley last season.

Cleveland had just two catches last season but showed the athletic potential that has the Pirates excited for his prospects next year.

“He’s going to be huge for us,” Carter said. “He’s a great athlete – the starting catcher on the baseball team. He understands the game and is going to line up all over the field for us. I expect him to be on the line of scrimmage, flexed out to the slot and even in the backfield kind of like what Dane was last season. He’s capable of doing it all for us.”

Wylie has some questions heading into next season for the offense, but overall the team knows it’s capable of getting better every week throughout the season. As they improved last season, they showed the ability to compete with anyone as they were able to win a playoff game to finish 2022.

“Even if there is some inexperience there, we have to put them in positions to be successful,” Carter said. “They’re capable of going up and catching a ball, but we want to use play action, rollouts and different things to create explosive plays.”

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Hilco Real Estate 6-2024

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