The Waynesville Spartans were one of the not-so-familiar faces in last year’s Division V playoffs, making just their third ever playoff appearance. The Spartans rebounded from a slow start to finish strong and earn a postseason berth. With eight starters back on each side of the ball, the Spartans will have the personnel coming back to make another run at their playoff goals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Seth Millar (5-8, 180, jr.), QB Cory Young (6-0, 165, jr.), DB Brady Deters (6-2, 185, sr.), OL/DL Lucas Hammonds (6-0, 190, sr.)
The Waynesville Spartans were one of the not-so-familiar faces in last year’s Division V playoffs, making just their third ever playoff appearance. The Spartans rebounded from a slow start to finish strong and earn a postseason berth.
“Going into the season, we knew we had a lot of young players at various key positions. We knew they were capable of producing, but obviously until you get into that game situation, you don’t know how exactly it’s going to turn out,” head coach Glenn Burchfield said. “Fortunately they did. We had a limited number of seniors, and obviously we had to rely on a lot of the underclassmen to take care of business. Early on I think we were 1-2 at one point, then fixed our defense a little bit, started utilizing our speed a little bit more since we’re vastly undersized, and things got on a roll. We just started playing good football, then obviously beating Oakwood, who was undefeated at that time, was a big springboard to put us into the playoffs and finish off the season on a good note.”
The team’s playoff season was an exciting time for the school, but Burchfield feels the team may not have shown their best stuff in their opening round 45-21 defeat to West Liberty Salem. This year’s team has a goal of avoiding another first round loss.
“That was only the third time in school history that we made the playoffs, and one of the goals that I know the seniors have set for this upcoming year is that they want to be the first team to win a playoff game because in the two previous years, it was one-and-done,” Burchfield said. “So I think that’s the first thing. Everybody around here made it a big deal, and it should be; it doesn’t happen very often and we had to work really hard to get there. But I think maybe one of the things that we have to realize is everybody who gets to that point is very, very good. I think that’s something our kids didn’t realize and were caught up in the moment of just being there.
“Even though we were a 5-seed, everybody who makes it into the playoffs has something to prove and they obviously did a lot of things right to get there. So I think that they not necessarily underestimated it but did not take advantage of the opportunity. I’m not taking anything away from West Liberty Salem – they pounded us, especially in the second half – but I think our kids were genuinely caught up the moment and thought maybe that this was going to be like any other week during the regular season, and it’s not.”
With eight starters back on each side of the ball, the Spartans will have the personnel coming back to make a run at their playoff goals.
“We only graduated eight seniors,” Burchfield said. “Unfortunately, one of them was an all-state nose guard selection in Dustin Hogan, and another was an all-area wide receiver, but we do bring back a lot of speed. We’re not going to be very big, but we’ve got some kids who can run. Obviously a lot of them have experience as well since we have several kids who played as freshmen and sophomores.
“We have a great senior class. As far as leadership qualities, they’re already taking care of business in the offseason, getting kids together in the weight room and showing them how to do things right. Every year we’ve improved. In the five years of my tenure, we’ve improved, and I expect that again. We’ve been building for things like this, and hopefully we can put it together, do a little bit better and get a little bit further.”
Burchfield says the motivation of playoff success has caused this year’s group to take things up a notch in the offseason.
“There’s usually a point in the spring where you almost have to kick them out of the weight room one day and get on them a little bit,” Burchfield said. “There’s lack of enthusiasm, with all of their buddies going out after school and getting something to eat or playing baseball, softball, and track. We haven’t had to do that this spring. I think part of that is getting to the postseason, because I think that’s hanging over their heads. We have a countdown clock similar to that at Ohio State that’s been ticking ever since we had our banquet last year, so they see that everyday in the weight room. I think that they’re definitely more motivated this time around because of that.”
The postseason appearance has also had an effect throughout the school and community.
“We have a few more kids interested in playing ball,” Burchfield said. “I think our numbers will be up a little bit. I think we ended the season with 48 kids, and I’ve got low 60s right now as far as commitment, so that’s definitely an improvement. People are already talking about football, and typically here at Waynesville, over the long haul it’s been more of a basketball school. We’ve had some success in different periods, but people are talking about it. We have a lot of kids running track, which is great because we encourage them to do as many things as possible, and track obviously enhances what they do on the football field. A lot of them will tell you they’re running track because of football. Obviously I want them to run track because they want to run track, but it helps us on that end as well.”
The Spartans will face a challenging schedule on the way to their goal, but Burchfield hopes the team will be able to step up and knock off the toughest opponents.
“I believe we have four 2007 playoff teams on our schedule,” Burchfield said. “We have Milton-Union, Clinton-Massie, Oakwood, and Monroe. Not only are those playoff teams, but they’re also a division or two up from us. That poses a challenge that they’re larger schools and that they’re successful and got to the postseason. That’s going to be tough. We can’t take for granted anything on our schedule. East Clinton, the opening game, we’ve only beaten them I think two times out of the first five. So we need to get off to a good start, and then right away we’ve got Clinton-Massie and Milton-Union, who I think both played each other in the regional semifinals last year in Division IV. Both of those teams are going to be physical. I think that’s a big key – the teams that we’ve got to beat are going to be very physical, and unfortunately we don’t have the size. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to have to be a finesse team, but we have to use our speed, and we’ve gotten to the point where I think our guys realize that we can win the games we’re supposed to win. We’ve got to kick it up a notch and win some of those games that people don’t expect us to win, a.k.a. against some of those bigger schools. We’re going to have to take it week by week, and I’ve already talked to kids about not looking ahead. We’re going to have to focus on East Clinton and take it one week at a time.”
8/22 Lee’s Creek East Clinton
8/29 at Clarksville Clinton-Massie
9/5 West Milton Milton-Union
9/19 Camden Preble Shawnee
9/26 at New Lebanon Dixie
10/3 at Dayton Oakwood
10/10 Dayton Northridge
10/17 at Monroe Lemon-Monroe
10/24 Middletown Madison