Three wins and seven losses define the season that was for Waynesville.

Three wins and seven losses define the season that was for Waynesville.

A third consecutive losing season – and the fourth in the last five years – was less than Coach Rick Vernon hoped, mostly because of turnovers and poor field position.

"We knew we had a bunch of young kids," Vernon said. "Every week the kids worked very hard and were ready to play every Friday night, but I think we got into the situation all year where it was turnovers that hurt us."

Coughing up the football generally translates into a shorter field for the opposing offense, and when you commit nearly 30 turnovers in 10 games, it's tough to win.

Another facet of Waynesville's game plan also never really panned out. The team struggled to find an identity on offense since Week 1.

Senior receiver Dylan Newcomb transitioned to quarterback in the offseason, something that is rarely beneficial. A rookie quarterback's mind combined with a young, undersized offensive line inhibited the true potential of Waynesville's traditional power rush attack.

Despite an average of more than 100 rushing yards per game and nearly four-fifths of touchdowns coming from running plays, Waynesville found itself committing several three-and-out drives early in games. Because of these, opponents took advantage of quality field position and battered a weary Waynesville defense for more than 30 points per game, including being outscored 114 to 33 in its final four contests.

The numbers, however, don't do Waynesville's defense justice.

"The defense started out slow early [in the season], but they really came on strong," Vernon said. "They were put in some tough situations with field position and sometimes that leads the score to be a little bit higher and makes the defense look like they didn't play quite as well."

Total defensive yardage (minus the games at Parkview and Lebanon) showed that Waynesville played better than advertised, according to Vernon.

The hard work exerted by the squad is also undermined by the losing record.

"What grew was how hard [the players] worked everyday," Vernon said. "They came everyday – on time – and went out and practiced hard; they worked very hard during game situations. They worked just as hard when the clock went off as when it went on."

Those types of intangibles resemble resiliency. In the Sept. 21 game against Rolla, the team's elastic character showed.

Even after Rolla pounded in a rushing touchdown from 1-yard out after a time-eating drive, Waynesville added two straight scores of its own, a 3-yard touchdown rush and a 34-yard touchdown pass, to take the lead, 14-7.

For the rest of the game, both teams traded points until regulation ended with the score knotted at 28-all. Rolla inched its way close to a touchdown in the first overtime possession, but with a couple of key plays by Waynesville's linebacking corps, Rolla turned the ball over on downs just inside the 20-yard line.

Waynesville added a field goal on the ensuing drive to win the game 31-28 in dramatic fashion.

However, in the team's most devastating defeat this year, Rolla racked up 34 point to rout Waynesville in the district playoffs.

A lot of the team's success in its three wins can be attributed to the older players on the team.

"We had some great senior leadership," Vernon said. "They stuck in there, worked very hard and stayed positive by working with [and encouraging] the younger ballplayers."

During the course of the season, Vernon said he and his coaching staff noticed the athletes' growth, something that pushed the emotional letdowns from losing aside.

"Whenever you see the players playing as hard as they can, working as hard as they can, I don't think we get frustrated," Vernon said. "When you get that out of your players, that's about all you can ask for."

Even at season's end, Vernon is still fixated on 2012, especially his departing seniors.

"Right now you're always excited for the next season, but we still need to give a little time for our seniors that are still with us and doing other things," Vernon said. "Time will come for the next season to happen, but we're still giving this season honor to the seniors that played for us."

Looking back, the seniors played every down with a strong will and enthusiasm. The underclassmen gained invaluable experience from each game played and if each sophomore and junior returns next year, there will be 60 players who have had experience in Vernon's system, either in practice or in games.

With a mixture of Vernon's state championship coaching ability and the amount of experience, there is no reason why Waynesville shouldn't improve in 2013.