Something seems to have changed for the Waynesville Tigers football team, though head coach Rick Vernon says everything is the mostly the same.
LEBANON, Mo. – Something seems to have changed for the Waynesville Tigers football team, though head coach Rick Vernon says everything is the mostly the same.
Down 26-18 late in the fourth quarter, Lebanon converted two third downs against the Tiger defense and drove to the Waynesville 2-yard line before running back Elza Evans pounded in his third touchdown, tightening the score to 26-24.
Lebanon elected to try a two-point attempt, but as Evans took a sweep around the right side, he was stood up by Waynesville's Kevonn Shoulders (Sr., LB), who shed a block to make the tackle just outside the end zone.
“That was huge,” Vernon said of the play. “I don't know how close it was – probably 6 or 12 inches – but we stopped them.”
Waynesville's offense fizzled on the next drive and punted after a three-and-out with 1:07 remaining.
A punt to the Lebanon 22-yard line gave the opponent a long field. Then, on the second play of the drive, Waynesville defensive back Michael Thompson (Sr.) intercepted a pass and returned it 32-yards for a touchdown, ensuring a 32-24 victory.
Thompson's interception was one of two forced by the Tiger defense. Earlier in the game a Lebanon pass was intercepted in the end zone, preventing a potential scoring drive.
Wednesday's victory gave Waynesville its fifth in the last seven games, and also extended the team's current win streak to four games.
“Nothing has really changed,” Vernon said. “There were just some things in those early games that kept us from winning, but never did the kids ever doubt what they were doing.
“Now some of those things—special teams has gotten a lot better—we've just put everything together,” he continued. “Our coaches work individually with the players, and that shows. For the kids, whatever the coaches put forth, they put it it out on the field.”
Waynesville started fast on both sides of the ball, scoring a 58-yard touchdown run on a Varon Martinez (Jr., QB) option keep on the third play from scrimmage, and then by holding Lebanon to a field goal on the ensuing drive.
“It's just that good read,” Vernon said of Martinez's run. “You give or keep, and then the line made some good blocks. Because of it, we put it in the end zone and set the tone of the game.”
The Tigers' coaching staff met Thursday for a morning film session.
During the film session, Vernon said he noticed his defense made plays when it mattered, but missed several tackles early in the game.
“We were just making some mistakes and not closing down and [playing] physical football,” the coach said. “Because of it, we were creating some holes [for Lebanon to run through].”
Tiger student-athletes will resume a normal week of practice Thursday, and will work to correct team flaws through Sunday before meeting with the old rival Camdenton Lakers in the Class 5 Sate Tournament sectional round.
The Tigers dropped an Oct. 11 matchup with the Lakers, led by quarterback Bo Dean's (Sr.) 185 passing yards and two touchdowns, by a wide margin of 30-6.
Camdenton is generally a rushing offense, but Waynesville forced the Lakers into a one-dimensional game plan early in the previous game.
“They're very complete,” Vernon said of Camdenton, “so it's just going to be another one of those games where one or two plays might make a difference.”
Vernon is confident of the Tigers' rushing defense headed into hostile territory, but the coach expects his defensive secondary will be “ready” for anything Camdenton throws their way.
Camdenton will host Waynesville on Monday at 7 p.m.