Behind All-Ohio, blue chip QB Trevor Walls (left) and a cast of talented teammates that earned conference and statewide honors last year, the Tigers are looking to advance further than the regional semifinal finish from a year ago.
Contributor Shayne Combs chcks in with a look at the 2007 Waverly Tigers.
Contains Video Highlights!
WAVERLY – When southern Ohio football fans think about Waverly football, their thoughts usually start with offense and footballs flying all over the place on Friday nights.
The main reason for these visions is 6-6, rocket-armed QB Trevor Walls and his corps of pass-catching Tigers that scorched opponents for an amazing 2, 052 passing yards and 34 points per game a year ago. Walls tossed 26 touchdowns while only throwing six INTs, and the All-Ohioan signal-caller completed 65-percent of his passes.
Add this to a defense that allowed just less than 10 points per game and it is no surprise why the Tigers advanced to the regional semifinals before suffering their first and only loss.
Expectations are high again this year for the Tigers
Head coach Rusty Wright is the first to admit that this well-oiled machine – known has the Waverly offense – is made up of several pieces working together, but he is also the first to speak up and say just how special his team’s leader is on and off the field.
“When you talk about Trevor, you are talking about a 4.0 student-athlete that is the senior-class president and about as good of teammate as you will ever be around,” Wright said. “He is the first to arrive and the last to leave. He is extremely receptive to coaching, and he is always so good to talk to the junior high and little league kids. He really is a first-class young man that can really play the game of football.”
Although the senior captain gets plenty of much deserved attention, this is an offense that as several weapons. Offensive coordinator Mike Roback, who played quarterback for Waverly before moving on to play under center for Ohio University, has a full list of big play options that usually has opponents’ defensive coordinators using a “pick-your-poison” approach when trying to contain the high octane attack.
Waverly’s top pass catcher from a year ago, All-Ohioan Casey Williams, returns as the leader of a dangerous receiving corps. The 5-10 senior is extremely quick and can really do some damage after the catch.
The Tigers also return 6-3 senior Mason Good (who also does the place-kicking), senior Trevor Arnett and junior Ryan Robertson.
Perhaps the biggest, big-play guy, though, will be sophomore Derek Roback. The 6-3 Roback is also the backup QB and punter (he averaged just less than 40 yards per punt in his freshman campaign). The sophomore WR has some big-time speed, which was displayed during his freshman track season when he advanced to the regional meet in multiple events.
The Tigers are also confident that they have a running game that will complement their aerial attack. Senior FB Josh Obetz and sophomore TB Kevin Malone will share most of the carries, and they will do their work behind a solid group up front that is led by senior Miles Deacon. Deacon is a 6-1, 230 pound lineman that produces a 3.7 GPA in the classroom, and he will be asked to lead a group that has a variety of athletes that should be able to give their All-Ohioan gunslinger plenty of time to throw as well as pound opposing defensive lines in short yardage situations.
“Coach John Knight does a wonderful job with the guys up front,” Wright said. “Our skill guys are going to get a lot of the hype, but our line does a great job of protecting Trevor and opening the holes for our backs. They really deserve a lot of credit for what we do on the offensive side of the ball.”
The Tiger defense usually plays “second-fiddle” to the high-powered offense when it comes to recognition; however, this unit stirs plenty of discussion. Defensive coordinator Chris Crabtree and his 3-5-3 defensive attack emphacizes 11 Tigers flying to the ball. This attack is led by returning Southern Ohio Conference defensive player of the year and All-Ohioan Ramone Conley.
“This kid has the fastest closing speed as any kid that I have ever been around,” said Wright when talking about his linebacker. “He really flies to the ball and when he gets there he usually brings a whole lot of nasty with him. He will really hit you.”
The defense will also look to senior defensive end Dalton Scott to make a living in the opponents’ backfield. Scott produced 9.5 sacks as a junior.
“Waverly has always been known for offense, but Coach Crabtree really has these kids buying into the defensive side of the ball,” Wright said. “Our defensive unit plays with a lot of enthusiasm and they have fun playing together.”
As a member of Division IV, Region 15, the Tigers have loaded the first half of their schedule with some bigger schools. Even though Waverly will play fellow D-IV teams Chillicothe Zane Trace and South Point in weeks 1 and 3, respectively, Waverly will also do battle with D-II Jackson on the road in Week 2. The Tigers host D-III McArthur Vinton County in Week 4 and then face an extremely tough challenge when they travel to D-I Pickerington North in Week 5.
The second half of the schedule – the SOC slate – gets underway in Week 6 when Waverly hosts Minford, but it will be hard for football fans in southern Ohio not to start peeking ahead to Week 9, when the Tigers head south to take on Wheelersburg in what many believe will be for the outright conference title.
“Playing the non league schedule that we play and then playing in the SOC there are just simply no nights off,” Wright said. “Our expectations are really high here at Waverly, and our kids have bought into this program and what we want to accomplish. Our coaching staff is blessed with a great group of guys to work with. It is a group that has worked really hard, and I feel if we continue to improve there is no limit to what this team can achieve.”
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