Apple Creek Waynedale ready for another lengthy run


Apple Creek Waynedale Golden Bears

With 11 starters returning from a 9-3 playoff squad including 2,000 yard rusher Thad Nofsinger, the Apple Creek Waynedale Golden Bears appear set for another golden season in 2008.

“We’re excited,” head coach Matt Zuercher said.

The core of returning players along with the playoff experience received in 2007 make Waynedale a good bet to have a similar showing in 2008.


TB/LB Thad Nofsinger (6-0, 210, sr.), QB/DB Travis Suppes (6-1, 175, sr.), WR/DB Sean Rutt (6-0, 180, sr.) G/DE Steve Eyring (6-0, 180, sr.), ILB/FB James Rutt (5-10, 175, sr.)


2007 Record: 9-3, Regional semifinalists

With 11 starters returning from a 9-3 playoff squad including 2,000 yard rusher Thad Nofsinger, the Apple Creek Waynedale Golden Bears appear set for another golden season in 2008.

“We’re excited,” head coach Matt Zuercher said. “I think we’re returning 17 or 18 lettermen off last year’s team. We lose a good senior class, but we have a great group of underclassmen that also contributed to last year’s class. Our JV team went undefeated last year, so there’s some young kids who are hungry to step in and fill in on Friday nights. We’re looking forward to it this fall.”

Waynedale made a return to the playoffs in 2007 after some near-misses.

“Two years ago, we were 7-3 and lost some close games to teams that had made the playoffs, so our guys were motivated in the offseason to win a few more of those closer games and get back to the playoffs,” Zuercher said. “They worked hard in the offseason, and we were able to win a few of those games. We were co-champs in our league last year and got in the playoffs. It was a hard-working group and a great chemistry group. It starts at the top obviously with the seniors; we had 14 seniors who all contributed and did a great job both on the field and off the field for us. They’ll be missed.”

Nofsinger (2,005 yards, 24 touchdowns) and quarterback Travis Suppes (73-167, 1,262 yards, 12 touchdowns) are two of six starters back on offense. Zuercher expects both players to spearhead what should be the strengths of the offense.

“Offensively, we got much, much better last year at running the football and being able to run the football in those situations when you need to,” Zuercher said. “With our tailback coming back from last year who rushed for 2,000 yards, that should be a strength again this year. We also have a quarterback returning who was a first-year starter last year as a junior. He also did a real nice job for us as a junior, but anytime you play a first-time starter, the decision making isn’t as strong. I expect that to be much better this year with a full year’s experience and a couple playoff games under his belt, which is really going to give us a lot of balance on the offensive side of the ball.”

Five starters are back on defense, but the unit as a whole will bring more experience than that number might indicate.

“Defensively, we had to play a lot of kids last year,” Zuercher said. “Even though we only have five starters coming back, I probably have another six or seven that probably played 50 percent of the time or more and really got a lot of experience. I expect those guys to come back and really be aggressive on the defensive side of the ball and do a great job.”

The core of returning players along with the playoff experience received in 2007 make Waynedale a good bet to have a similar showing in 2008.

“Anytime you get a chance to play in big ball games, it’s just going to make you better,” Zuercher said. “You get used to it, more comfortable with those situations and more comfortable with the pressure. I think the last time we were in the playoffs was 2003, so this group had never been in the playoffs before. Having a chance to get in and win the first one and play Ursuline in the second round really gave us the opportunity to play some great competition and get them hungry for more.

“Anytime you have some success, you have two choices – either you’re going to use it to springboard to more success, or you’re going to rest on your laurels and be happy with where you’re at. I’m very fortunate; I think I have a group that’s very hungry to get back into the postseason and improve on the run last year.”

As is the case with any team though, Waynedale does have some areas they will be working to improve. Zuercher cited one area in particular for each side of the ball.

“A couple areas where we need to improve – There were a few times last year where we just weren’t able to finish drives,” he said. “In a couple of our losses, we either wound up getting down there and ended up with field goals or didn’t get any points. In those close, tight ball games, especially big games in the regular season and into the playoffs, you have to be able to score seven points when you get those types of opportunities. That’s something we’re really going to concentrate on this year and try to capitalize on when we get down inside that red zone.

“Defensively, even though we gave up 9.3 points a game last year, we didn’t force as many turnovers as I’d like to see, so that’s going to be a big area of concentration for us this year – creating more turnovers, more scoring opportunities, those types of things with our defense.”

Waynedale’s schedule will include five teams that won seven or more games in 2007.

“We keep a pretty competitive non-league schedule,” Zuercher said. “We open up with Tusky Valley, who has won the Pac-7 the past three years and been in the playoffs the past three years. We open up down there. Danville is Week 2, a perennial Division VI playoff team and was one of the teams that beat us last year, so we’re looking for a great ballgame against them. Our other game is Triway, which is kind of a backyard rivalry for us.

“Our non-league schedule’s pretty competitive, and then when we get in our league, the Wayne County League, it’s becoming more and more competitive which I think has raised the level of play over the years, especially here in the last five or six years. There’s not the traditional two or three top teams and maybe one other one that can make some noise and then the other four near the bottom. Top to bottom it’s becoming more and more competitive, which is getting us prepared to play each Friday night. I think it’s really led itself to the teams that do make the playoffs being successful because of the competition throughout the season.”

Overall, the team and the community expect to see some big things from this year’s season.

“Our community’s always gotten behind the football team, so we’ve had good tradition in the past,” Zuercher said. “During the 2000’s, we’ve been up and down a little bit, probably more so than we would have liked. But they really rallied around us last year and gave us great support. The community spirit really showed through, and I think it really gave our kids a taste of what it’s like and what our community can do as far as being supportive and the energy and buzz that is created when you make the playoffs.

“I think with the taste that we had last year and the support that was created, they see what’s coming back and the players that are coming back and experience that that group got. The expectations and the bar are going to be raised again this year. I think the community expects that as well, which is good. It’s the way it should be. Success breeds success, and hard work leads to more success, and that’s what we’re trying to keep going right now.”


9/12 @ DALTON

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