WEST PLAINS, Mo. – After a long offseason, head coach Rick Vernon finally saw his team's plans come together in game situations, though his Tigers dropped the season opener to West Plains, 14-13.
"You really don't know [what to expect] until you get into a game," Vernon said Tuesday.
During the first quarter, things seemingly fell into place.
Waynesville struck the first blow on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Trent Simpson (Sr.) to Michael Thompson (Sr.) in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead early.
However, West Plains battled back to score a 4-yard touchdown run before halftime to knot the game at 7-all.
Both defenses displayed tenacity throughout the second half until the Tigers scored on another big play – a 19-yard run by senior running back Ronnie McLean in the fourth quarter.
Vernon said big plays are fortunate, but moving the ball methodically and improving in the red zone will be key as the season runs its course.
"Offensively, we moved the ball a lot from the 20[-yard line]," he explained. "Now we have to get into the mind frame when we get down closer [to the goal line], we're determined that we're going to score."
After McLean's scamper, Waynesville failed a two-point conversion try, leaving them ahead 13-7.
The coaching staff stood by the decision:
"If we had to do it again, we'd do the same thing," Vernon said.
Later in the final period, West Plains added a second score, a 1-yard touchdown run, and an extra point to earn a 14-13 victory over Waynesville.
"Whenever you get into a 14-13 game, you're going to see things you really like," Vernon said after the loss. "We saw a lot of good things out of our team Friday night."
One of the bright spots in the Tigers' close loss was a gritty defensive effort.
"Defensively, we played great down near the goal line," Vernon said, praising his team's effort at the end of the field.
However, the coach admitted his Tigers must protect the middle of the field to avoid giving opponents numerous chances in the red zone.
"We didn't let [West Plains convert] inside the 10 [often], but now we have to turn that mindset over out in the middle of the field," Vernon explained.
The team spent much of Monday reviewing film in preparation for the team's first home game at the new high school football stadium.
Throughout the week, Vernon said, his team will work to improve fundamental gameplay and "improve the little things."
Waynesville (0-1) is set to take on Lebanon (1-0) on Friday in the first Ozark Conference battle of the season. Lebanon smacked Rolla 27-7 in its season opener.
Page 2 of 2 - The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.