Dakoda Wagner was on a long list of injured players that weren’t expected to see action in Army’s spring football game Friday.
Army’s backfield was hit hard by injuries this spring along with players recovering from injuries. Only three of the Black Knights’ 13 running backs were dressing for the spring game. That’s until Wagner, a freshman, stepped up.
Stepping up may be an understatement when talking about Wagner’s second-half performance in Army’s spring finale. Wagner’s 23-yard touchdown pass from Bryson Daily was the start in the third quarter. The finish was an incredible one-handed catch in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with 1:41 left to help Black to a 31-30 win over Gold.
“I think it was a great catch,” said Wagner, who took his first offensive snaps in the third quarter. “A one-handed catch. Watched it all the way in. Eyes to tuck just like coach Monken tells us. I really felt like it gave the team energy and got everybody hyped up to finish out the game.”
Army coach Jeff Monken credited Wagner for “miraculously” being ready to play so Army would have two running backs on each team.
Miles Stewart said Wagner’s one-handed catch is something his teammates have seen before. Wagner made a similar catch on a pass from Dewayne Coleman during a fall scrimmage, Stewart said.
“Dakoda is a really good player,” said Stewart, a sophomore running back, after the spring game. “I think he’s very twitchy. He shows that in a lot of aspects especially when he’s running the ball. He tried to huddle a few guys today.
“Today, he showed he can do it. He is a freshman so he had to learn how to practice throughout spring. We all go through that. Last year, I had to learn how to practice faster. I think him playing the game today fast and playing it efficient showed that he can do it. I’m really looking forward to him practicing better every day and doing it every day.”
Wagner impressed Army coaches his freshman season, earning scout team player of the week honors during for the UMass game. Wagner, a fullback as a freshman in a triple-option scheme, is now in the mix in Army’s singleback shotgun offense.
“It’s been really interesting,” said Wagner of the offense changes. “There’s been ups and downs. Just keeping at it, still grinding and trying to get better single day. Everybody here has a role to play and everybody’s trying to play it well. It’s been a good transition ultimately and I think everyone is enjoying it a lot more.”
Wagner enjoyed his moments Friday. He was sure to praise his teammates for the Team Black’s late rally even if he also had two runs of more than 10 yards on the final drive.
“I can’t take credit for the comeback,” Wagner said. “It’s a team effort. Defense did amazing. Offense did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Still, opportunity opened for Wagner Friday night. And, Wagner unquestionably made the most of it.