Enthusiasm and an upbeat tempo in Wednesday's practice washed away the effects of a less than spectacular regular season.

Enthusiasm and an upbeat tempo in Wednesday's practice washed away the effects of a less than spectacular regular season.

"It's a brand new season coming Friday," Coach Rick Vernon said. "Everybody in Missouri is 0-0 and records don't mean anything."

All week Vernon said he has preached this message to his student-athletes and the team has responded with poise and confidence in practice.

Linebackers followed their position coach's lead in read-and-react drills. Wide receivers and defensive backs were diving after inaccurate passes. Lineman thumped the tackling dummy. Quarterbacks worked together with coaches to decipher the game plan for Friday's playoff contest against Rolla.

And, although he was limited early in the week, senior quarterback Dylan Newcomb was upgraded to a full participant Wednesday, adding to the team's excitement for a playoff game.

Vernon said Newcomb is a valuable asset to his teammates and having him back on the field changes Waynesville's perspective.

"He has three years of leadership," Vernon said. "He's been in the playoffs and knows the importance of each ballgame."

Newcomb practiced with the first-team offense at quarterback and at receiver Wednesday and may see playing time at other positions on offense.

Waynesville defeated Rolla with Newcomb in the lineup in overtime 31-28 during the regular season, largely in part to a tough defense late in the game.

Since meeting on Sept. 21., Vernon said both teams have changed.

"You look at a couple of previous [Rolla] games, and look and see where we're at and go from there," he said.

Rolla has more experience operating a confusing option-style offense, which could prove effective against a young Waynesville defense.

Waynesville's defensive coaches have spent hours working to imprint option assignments into their players' minds, but stopping Rolla's physical running style is a tall task.

In the previous matchup, Waynesville allowed well over 150 rushing yards to Rolla, enabling an effective play-action pass.

"We know what [Rolla] runs; they're very good at it," Vernon said. "They had a couple big passes and they did some very good things [Sept. 21], and have done those things throughout the year."

Defensively, Waynesville's secondary has also gained more game experience and should be prepared for another grueling, physical battle with a tough Rolla team.

According to Vernon, the key to winning is simple: eliminate turnovers.

With 12 turnovers in the last four games, Waynesville has discussed and practiced ball security on offense to deflate the negative turnover differential.

Both teams enter their first playoff game with sub-.500 records.

Waynesville is 3-6, only two games better than Rolla's 1-8 record. Conversely, Rolla is coming off a 28-15 victory over West Plains a week ago, whereas Waynesville was battered 35-14 by Hillcrest last Friday. According to MaxPreps.com, the teams have a combined points differential of minus-205.

Numbers and records aside, each city is hungry for a taste of playoff football victory and Friday's competition should justify the appetite.

The game will take place at 7 p.m. in Waynesville.