Waynesville football coach Rick Vernon preached protection the ball and playing for field position all season.
WAYNESVILLE – A chill to the air cooled an already struggling Waynesville offense Friday against Rolla.
An opening drive field goal nearly half way through the first quarter gave Rolla its first lead over Waynesville.
When Waynesville took over on the next drive and was forced to punt, things seemed fine, like a usually intense playoff game.
Waynesville coach Rick Vernon said his team “gave [Rolla] the opportunity to have a short field all night long.”
Indeed, Waynesville's congruent offensive drives each became increasingly disastrous.
In five plays after a Rolla punt, Waynesville fumbled in its own territory. Rolla took over and conceded the ball back after going for it on fourth down at the Waynesville 29-yard line.
Waynesville elected to go for it on fourth down at its own 39-yard line, which resulted in the team's second turnover.
Rolla responded by converting two third-and-long situations at the Waynesville 24 and 11-yard lines before pounding five straight runs in for a 5-yard touchdown rush with five minutes left before halftime.
After the ensuing kickoff, senior quarterback Alec Tebbe's pass was intercepted at the Rolla 45-yard line and returned to the Waynesville 14.
Three plays later, Rolla added its second touchdown of the game, another strong 1-yard rush to push the score to 17-0.
At halftime, Waynesville realized just how good Rolla became since the Sept. 21 overtime loss at the hands of Waynesville.
“Rolla was a very good football team coming in,” Vernon said. “They played well all year long and they just didn't get some wins throughout the year.”
Autumn's cool breath led fans to the concessions stand to purchase chili and hot chocolate to heat up at the mid-way point; many hoped Waynesville's offense would heat up in the second half, too.
In an attempt to create a spark, Vernon placed junior Trent Simpson at quarterback to begin the third quarter.
“We wanted to see what each one of [the quarterbacks] could do,” Vernon said. “We thought it was a good time to let Trent have some time behind the center.”
Simpson looked rusty, bumping into his running back once before the team was forced to punt on another three-and-out drive.
The opponent capitalized on a 15-yard facemask penalty, which led Rolla to the Waynesville 31. Rolla then converted a fourth-and-1 at the Waynesville 11 before capping with an 8-yard touchdown pass at 5:10 in the third period.
Behind 24-0, Tebbe checked back into the game to take over at his own 18. A long run by senior running back Warren Womack was negated by a chop block, which pushed Waynesville further into its own territory at the 9. Forced to pass, Tebbe was intercepted again on the next play , this time for a 9-yard touchdown.
The ensuing drive resulted in another mishap: a blocked punt at the Waynesville 20-yard line.
Rolla advanced to the 10-yard line and eventually added a 22-yard field goal to make the score 34-0.
In the fourth quarter, in desperation, Simpson dropped back to pass several times, completing two touchdown passes to senior receiver Aren Martin, one for 52 yards. Both were negated by holding calls.
With 1:19 left in the game, after stopping Rolla's rush attack, Waynesville scored its only touchdown on a 16-yard run by Warren, the last rush of his career.
“[Rolla] didn't get any long passes on us,” Vernon said, pleased with his defense's effort. “This time we stopped that...but again, we gave them the opportunity to have a very short field all night long because of turnovers.”
Waynesville committed 27 turnovers in its 10 games, and Rolla capitalized with 17 points off of the errors, and out gained Waynesville by only 49 total offensive yards with 208. Nearly 180 of those yards came on the ground.
Friday's match up was the last at Waynesville's Slaughter Field, as the team will play in a new stadium next season.
“Some of us have been on that field for a long time and we'll reflect back later on,” Vernon said. “Friday night was making sure we took care of our seniors and send them out the right way.”
Unfortunately, Waynesville was unable to do so, losing 34-6.
Rolla will hit the road to play Ozark Conference champion Lebanon (8-1) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.