After Wichita Northwest’s season opener Friday night, senior quarterback Reagan Jones found former Grizzly All-American Breece Hall to catch up.
Hall is a freshman at Iowa State now and was back visiting during the Cyclones’ bye week. One of the first things he noticed about the 2019 Grizzlies was someone who wasn’t there last year.
“Jack, that dude is good,” Jones said Hall told him. “He’s fast and knows where to go.”
Jack Wiens made his debut with the Class 5A runners-up in the Grizzlies’ 21-17 win over City League rival Bishop Carroll. He finished with a team-high nine tackles.
Wiens comes to Wichita Northwest by way of Andover Central, where he played alongside Jones from third grade through his sophomore season. Last year was their first year apart as Jones made the move for the 2018 season.
Jones didn’t tell anyone about his transfer, he said; only those who truly cared would reach out. Wiens was one.
Jones said his transfer to Northwest was for football reasons. He felt his recruitment hadn’t taken off as he had liked, so he took his career into his own hands and went to play for coach Steve Martin and a program that has won 22 more games over the past 10 years.
Jones is now verbally committed to Western Missouri on a full scholarship. Jones said he has Northwest and Martin to thank.
“I’d run through a wall for that man,” Jones said. “I’d take a bullet, anything, for that man. Coming in, I had no clue what I was getting into. Jack had no idea what he was getting into. It’s just amazing what he has done for us.”
Wiens saw Jones get named to the All-State, All-League and All-Metro teams, and he wanted in, he said. Wiens earned the Eagle’s All-State honorable mention accolade among others he wasn’t satisfied with.
He went to Northwest’s last two home playoff games against Bishop Carroll and Maize and made his decision. Jones told him his life was going to change forever.
“This is where I want to be,” Jones said Wiens told him.
Wiens is looking to replace All-Metro middle linebacker Josh Carter this season. Carter was Northwest’s emotional leader last year, but most important, he finished his career with 410 tackles. There isn’t much drop-off, if any, with Wiens coming in.
Last year, Wiens was the No. 6 tackler in Kansas with 135 for Andover Central, who dropped out of the Class 4A playoffs in the second round with a 5-5 record. Coach Tom Audley resigned after the season.
Andover Central lost to three-win Eisenhower but took 4A runner-up Goddard to overtime. Despite a rough week of practice leading up to the Carroll game, Wiens said the game day atmosphere was far different Friday at Northwest.
“I feel like everyone was more dialed in,” Wiens said. “They care a lot more. Come game time, they put it all out on the field. I wish those guys at Andover Central the best. I’m rooting for them and have a lot of love for them.
“It’s just a football decision. I want to go to college and play college football. AC just doesn’t have the program Northwest does. I mean, we came in at zero hour this morning to lift weights on a game day. That never happened at AC. I’ve put on 20 pounds since getting here.”
Martin said Wiens’ “motor” is what will be so valuable to the Grizzlies’ defense this season. At the end of Northwest’s summer camp, Wiens tracked down a ball-carrier 30 yards downfield and stripped the ball to win the team competition.
“That’s what Jack Wiens is: incredible motor, selfless player, leads by example, a hard-working kid, and we’re very fortunate for him to be with us,” Martin said.
Wiens and Jones said they received a lot of negative feedback for their transfers to Northwest, and Martin said he is always apprehensive about a player coming to his program as a senior, having to learn an entire regime in a few months.
Martin said Wiens is different.
Martin said he knows what it looks like with a pair of Andover Central players coming to Northwest over two years. He also said he doesn’t recruit players, his program does.
“I’m never going to apologize for having a great program and coaching our kids,” Martin said. “If I wasn’t a high school football coach and I had the chance to send my kid to play for Brandon Clark at Derby or Dusty Trail at Bishop Carroll, you better believe I would do that in a heartbeat. I’m going to send my kids wherever I believe they’re going to develop as young men and play in a good football system.
“My son Brock is a fifth-grader. If I get sick, I’m going to send him to the best football program, whether that’s good, right, wrong or indifferent. I’m going to protect my kid.”
Wiens is a key piece for first-year defensive coordinator Marc Marinelli. Last year, Northwest gave up more than 30 points four times and won them all. The Grizzlies gave up more than 60 twice in the postseason and won both of those, too.
Marinelli comes from Eisenhower, where he served as coach for six seasons.
“He recruits coaches,” Marinelli said. “That’s all.”