Posted: Jul 16, 2014 10:03 AM
|8 / 22||West Plains||Home||Loss||14 - 21|
|8 / 29||Lebanon||Away||Loss||14 - 15|
|9 / 5||Hillcrest||Home||Win||37 - 26|
|9 / 12||Parkview||Away||Win||42 - 23|
|9 / 19||Rolla||Home||Win||23 - 15|
|9 / 26||Joplin||Home|
|10 / 3||Camdenton||Away|
|10 / 10||Glendale||Home|
|10 / 17||Kickapoo||Away|
|10 / 24||Districts|
It's not easy to overcome a slow start to a season, but that's exactly what the Tigers did after they started the 2013 season a woeful 1-6. Losing three really close games along the way. After that beginning they caught lightning in a bottle and rattled off four straight wins including two in District play finally losing to rival Camdenton in the District Championship. Coach Rick Vernon has been around Waynesville long enough to know (33 years) that you never give up and you never assume things will go your way. The Tigers fortunes changed last season after they made some personnel changes and won some close games. Some of those changes made last year are going to pay off big in 2014, because the Tigers return eight offensive starters seven of them seniors.
It starts with the athlete who touches the ball every play. We could be talking about Waynesville's stellar QB Varon Martinez, but we are not? yet. Let's start with center Matt Oliphant (5-10, 260) and his fellow seniors returning to the O-Line. Austin Anderson (6-4, 280) will be back at tackle while Darren Garcia (6-0, 285) and William Finch (6-1, 250) will fl ank Oliphant on either side at the guard spots. These four will be counted on greatly to use their size and experience to open up holes for the running game. The running game is mostly a three-headed monster of running back Jalen Thomas (5-10, 195), Willie Parker (6-0, 205) and that guy we mentioned earlier quarterback Varon Martinez (5-9, 160). These three seniors combined for nearly 2,500 yards rushing last season. Martinez led the way with 1,171 yards and 13 TD's, Thomas tacked on 820 yards and 5 scores and Parker added 456 yards and 4 scores. Martinez also used his arm to toss for 910 yards and 4 TD's. Having this one-two-three punch combination out of the backfield behind an experienced line means opposing defenses will have their work cut out for them. When Martinez puts the ball in the air his primary targets are senior Zac Melvin (5-11, 190) and junior Seth Hedrick (6-2, 175). Last season as a sophomore Hedrick had 685 yards receiving and 5 TD's.
These returning starters are quite impressive. Adding depth and fighting for the open spot on the line will be seniors Trevor Sexton (6-1, 245) and Brandon Bliss (6-3, 250). The Tigers offense averaged 237 yards per game on the ground and nearly 100 through the air. They would love to increase those numbers as well as their average points per game of 22.
On the defensive side of the ball six starters return from a defense that held opponents to 165 yards rushing and 100 yards passing per game and allowed 25 points per game. Look for these numbers to improve with the experience and depth the Tigers will unleash. Waynesville runs a 3-5-3 scheme so they need five linebacker types, three of which return from '13. Seniors Tony Smith (6-0, 180) and Jason Smith (6-0, 215) return along with junior Cedric Williams (6-3, 210). Others looking to break in with the backers are Shane Andrews (6-2, 190), Jacob Kleinholz (5-10, 205) and senior Jackson Haedt (5-11, 195). Along the D-Line look for the return of ends Chaz Stribling (6-4, 230) a senior and Sam Roberts (6-5, 245) a junior. At tackle, seniors Deion McCathern (6-0, 275) and Zach Leach (6-0, 245) will compete for a spot and senior James Congdon (6-0, 195) will work in at end. In the secondary, senior Nigel Farmer (5-9, 150) is the lone returnee. He will play his safety spot and be joined in the defensive backfield by senior Kareem Isaac (5-10, 170).
The off-season has been a strong one for the Tigers. They utilized their contact days and camps as well as 7 on 7 games and line drills all summer long. They made themselves a very deep squad with very good size and strength and they are also one of the fastest teams in the conference. This elder squad of 20 plus seniors prepared well for their final season of high school football. They head into the season with the confidence and the experience they gained by overcoming a poor start a season ago and making a run to the District Championship. Look for this Tiger team to be competitive in every single game this year and get off to the fast start they have been preparing for all year.
Pigskin's Pick: 8-1