Ellis County football previews: 'Inexperienced’ Heritage looks to rebuild

Jags lost key starters in quarterback Daelin Rader, running back Latray Miller and receiver Haydon Wiginton

Arianna Vedia
The Dallas Morning News
Midlothian Heritage quarterback Daelin Rader (1) avoids the rush from Life Waxahachie's Christopher Gillespie (13) during a District 5-4A (I) game at Mustang Stadium last season. The Jaguars will have to replace a large number of graduates, including Rader.

Coaches and players were practicing in the rain for the first 10 minutes of Midlothian Heritage’s football practice. Head coach Lee Wiginton doesn’t remember that it poured.

It was the first day of practice and he was in the zone. Wiginton said he learned a long time ago that he can’t control the weather — obviously — so if the athletic trainer says there’s no lightning and everyone is good to go, they’re going.

“Things were flowing as normal as we used to remember them,” Wiginton said. “We had a really, really good first day.”

Players sprinted out to the field just before 7 a.m. in fresh T-shirts, red shorts and helmets. Wiginton split players into drills immediately, but put most of his focus on Heritage’s four quarterbacks — two varsity and two JV.

Heritage has some big shoes to fill after losing key players in quarterback Daelin Rader, running back Latray Miller (Midwestern State) and receiver Haydon Wiginton (Oklahoma State). The Jaguars finished their 2020 season with a 9-3 record after losing to Paris in the Class 4A Division I area round.

Rader, now a freshman at Southern University Shreveport Louisiana, threw for 1,708 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Miller rushed for 1,124 yards and 19 touchdowns in his senior season. Haydon led the team with 77 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns.

“We’re an extremely inexperienced team,” coach Lee Wiginton said.

Kaden Brown is expected to be Heritage’s starting quarterback this upcoming season. The 2023 ATH originally started at safety last year, a position he never really played, and impressed Wiginton. Toward district play, he was moved over to linebacker.

At first, Wiginton didn’t think he would be suited for it, but Brown ended up earning the District 5-4A Newcomer of The Year. Brown didn’t see much action in the pocket his sophomore year. Overall, he completed 2 of 3 passes for 39 yards and one interception.

Brown, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior, went from being the team’s least experienced quarterback to the most experienced in less than a year. Wiginton was using him as a model to the younger quarterbacks during Monday’s practice. He taught them how to run through specific drills and helped them focus on footwork.

“He’s just a really good ballplayer,” Wiginton said. “Now he’s going back to probably his more natural position at quarterback.”

District 4-5A (I): Heritage Jaguars

Head coach: Lee Wiginton (7th year at school, 52-13; 22nd year overall, 149-85)

2020 Record: 9-3, 4-0

Enrollment: 1,039.5

Returning lettermen: 16

Returning starters: 3 offense, 4 defense