In the mind of The Dunham School's running backs coach Matt Smith, one particular play stands out above the rest.
The opponent was Kentwood, and the Kangaroos weren’t going away easily. Dunham needed a spark.
That’s when Kalante Wilson unleashed his athleticism and lit up the opposing defense.
Smith still can’t believe what his eyes beheld: “He fights and makes a few moves to get to the second level. Then he makes a 360-degree spin move and just as he’s coming out of the spin, he somehow saw a guy coming in that there’s no way he could have seen and makes a hard cut and the guy whiffs.”
Wilson scored on that play and the Tigers went on to claim a 31-13 victory over a traditional power known for its athleticism. Now, thanks to a 22-20 quarterfinal Division III playoff win over Newman last week, the Tigers are preparing to visit top-seeded Lafayette Christian (10-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Leading the way is Wilson, who has gained more than 1,100 yards rushing in helping to lead fifth-seeded Dunham to a 10-1 record.
Smith said he’s watched video of Wilson’s big play against Kentwood at least 25 times and is still as stunned as he was the night it happened.
And the fact that Wilson is just a sophomore, well, Smith thinks that makes his ball carrier a unique talent.
“He’s got two more years, but it’s hard to see how he can get any better than he is right now,” Smith said of the running back who will turn 17 in December. “He’s a humble guy, never brags, his teammates love him, and he lets his play do the talking. He’s really an unbelievable kid.”
Wilson has had plenty of role models to emulate. He points to the Dunham coaching staff, which makes sure the players are motivated, prepared and held accountable for their actions both on and off the field.
There are his parents, Kalanjoe and Nikki, who have worked hard to provide everything the young athlete has needed to succeed in school and in athletics.
Former Tigers stars like Mike Williams and Derek Stingley, Jr., both Dunham grads now clad in LSU’s purple and gold. Wilson said he paid close attention to the way those and other standouts comported themselves while they were at Dunham.
“I saw the way they worked, how they gave 100 percent on every play and every rep in practice,” Wilson said. “I knew that’s the way I wanted to play. Now it’s paying off.”
There are also influences such as coach Shawn Wallace, a former coach at Dunham. Wallace puts Wilson through the paces during the off-season with a program that includes speed drills, weight lifting, stretching and a smidgen of yoga.
“It’s great,” Wilson said. “It relaxes your mind and helps you mentally and physically.”
Dunham coach Neil Weiner said Wilson is the latest in a succession of Tigers stars.
“When I got here, we had some outstanding leaders like Chance Day and Jyron Walker. Those were the guys that led the way for guys like Derek and Mike,” Weiner said. “And they mentored Kalante when he started playing in middle school. We’ve been fortunate to have some great athletes and young men with great character. Kalante is following that tradition, and we’re very proud of what he’s accomplished.”