Best of the best

Jake Holstege

It was a cold and windy Friday night, the lights were shining down on the field and tension was high. West Ottawa was in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. Sr. Xavier Wade took off down the field as he made a move on Grandville’s cornerback. Wade created just the right amount of space for Jr. Isaac VanDyke to heave the ball downfield. The football hit Wade right in his hands. He grasped the ball and took off, weaving between defenders. He shot into the end zone and celebrated with the rest of his team; this touchdown eventually helped West Ottawa to a first-round playoff win.


Wade is a team captain and has recently been named first team all-conference. He has broken three school records and has been on WO’s varsity football team since he was a sophomore. Now, Wade just might be the best Panther receiver ever.


  Wade has all of the measurables and accolades to be considered the best ever. He stands tall at 6’3, weighing in at 180 pounds. Thanks to his size and athleticism, Wade has gotten numerous college offers. This includes Eastern Michigan. He plays slot receiver, punt returner, kick returner, and defensive back in passing situations. Wade has a 4.5-second 40-yard dash always uses his speed to his advantage. In his junior year, Wade had 58 receptions for an astounding 1,032 yards and nine touchdowns. This set up a school record. He was the first team all-conference wide receiver and first team MLive GR Dream Team. Through his senior year, Wade has 17 touchdowns and has been named first team all-conference for the second year in a row.


  West Ottawa football expert, retired teacher, and WO Football and Girls Track Coach, Jack Carlson, has been around the program for a long time. Although Carlson is not ready to name Wade the best receiver to go through WO, he does agree that he is an exciting and talented player who is fun to watch.


  There are three receivers that give Wade a run for his money: Brian Baker, Ross Bloemers, and Ryan Verhelst.


  If not Wade, it can be argued that Baker is the best receiver to go through WO’s football program. Baker produced astounding statistics from 2002-2003. In 2002, Baker had 61 receptions, 826 yards, and a total of ten touchdowns. Baker is still ranked in the top 30 of the most receptions in the state, adding up to 126 receptions during his career. In Wade’s junior year, he had fewer receptions for the nine touchdowns.


  Some may argue that the best football player may not be either of these two. Some may argue in favor of Bloemers. Bloemers made a name for himself with 12 total touchdowns.


  A more recent player, and arguably one of the best, is Verhelst. Verhelst was a leader for the program, and he had the school record until Wade came along. He broke Baker’s record with 857 total receiving yards in 2012.


  Another West Ottawa football expert, Instructor Paul McNitt, gave his opinion on the situation. He also was not confident to name Wade the best to go through the program, but he did attest to Wade’s incredible athleticism. “It is his explosiveness that separates him from every other football player in the OK Red,” McNitt said. McNitt believes that his ability to make space after the catch and his ability to pull away from the defender while the ball is in the air is what makes him such a special player.


  Another football expert, Karl VonIns is amazed at the talent Wade has shown. “From where I sit, X has exceptional speed, the ability to turn on a dime to change direction, good size, is willing to take a hit, and is an outstanding leaper with soft hands,” VonIns said. “He is also dangerous because he is not only a receiver, he can line up in the backfield, can turn the corner and can also play defense when needed.” With this athletic ability, it is not surprising that he is so talented. Although he plays receiver the majority of the time, as VonIns said, he is good enough to play in the backfield and does. VonIns fully believes that he is one of the most feared receivers in the state.


  Wade and the rest of the football program have just won their first-ever district championship, and hope to keep their playoff run alive as they start regionals this Saturday at home. Make sure to come and check out Wade and the rest of the Panther team. You have at least one more chance to watch possibly the best receiver in WO history.