OCEAN — Croatan’s loss will be Randolph Macon College’s gain this fall when David Wallis takes the football field.
The Cougars’ senior Swiss Army knife of a player made his decision to attend the Division III Virginia school after helping lead Croatan to a series of program firsts in the fall.
The Cougars finished 6-6 overall while going 5-2 in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference for second place. They earned their first-ever home playoff game and reached the second round for just the second time in program history. All that success has left Wallis slightly conflicted about moving on to the next level.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Wallis said. “I’m not necessarily rushing to leave high school, but (Randolph Macon) looks like a great school. I’m excited to get back out on the football field.”
Wallis was one of two primary runners for Croatan, joining fellow senior Lewis Reddick to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. Wallis finished with 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns on 134 carries.
“He showed a lot of improvement from last season to this season, and not just with his numbers,” Croatan football coach Andrew Gurley said. “He was an exceptional all-around player. It makes you think back to his junior year and wonder what could have been.”
Croatan was Wallis’ third high school stop as part of a military family. When he arrived from Virginia as a junior, the coaching staff was still getting familiar with his skills. He only rushed 53 times for 367 yards and eight touchdowns to help the Cougars to a 4-7 finish. The coaches got a glimpse of what was to come when he rushed for 94 yards and three scores on 12 carries in the season finale against Pender.
“This school really accepted me and took me in,” Wallis said. “It was a great last season. I’m going to miss these guys.”
He lined up at more positions than running back as a senior. He was also the team’s punter, field-goal kicker, one of two primary return options and one of three players to line up at quarterback. He also occasionally lined up in the slot and played some defense.
“He was our Swiss Army knife,” Gurley said. “He made us a different team when he was in the lineup, and he affected the play even when he didn’t touch the ball. There were some games he just took over. I think back to the Dixon game or the Heide Trask game. Every time he touched the ball, he had a chance to score.”
Wallis had a litany of special moments during the season, including the program’s first-ever walk-off field goal to win the game against Richlands. He also nailed a pivotal 22-yard overtime field goal in the first-round playoff game.
Croatan’s success on the gridiron this season spawned four college football signings, including Nathan Waltrip (Augustana College), Sean Stage (Guilford) and Reddick (Guilford).
“I’m excited for those four guys signing,” Gurley said. “This senior class obviously holds a special place in my heart, so I’m thrilled to see them pursuing the sport at the next level.”
Gurley, who was a defensive coordinator for Croatan before taking the head coaching position last summer, has seen Randolph Macon scouting the school’s talent each year.
“They have been here every offseason looking for guys,” he said. “We’ve sent one before, Beau Bryan, and I think it’s a great fit for David. It’s a great school with great facilities. He’ll do well there.”
Wallis is joining a Randolph Macon program coming off a successful 2018 season. The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 18 in the final D3football.com national poll, finished 9-3 to tie a program record. They won the school’s first-ever playoff win in a 23-20 tilt over eighth-ranked John Carroll. Fifteen-year head coach Pedro Arruza was named the state’s top college football coach by the Touchdown Club of Richmond.