Waynesville's defensive backfield held Lebanon to 85 yards of passing. If they can keep that kind of play up this week, Waynesville could be enjoying its first win of the season.
WAYNESVILLE — Two teams that have been slowed by penalties and burned by fumbles will square off in Waynesville this week when the Tigers (0-2) host the Hillcrest Hornets (1-1).
Coach Rick Vernon spoke this week about how impossible it is to win football games when his team is committing 10 penalties for 85 yards and fumbling the ball three times like it did in Lebanon.
“The little things against good football teams that we play against each week makes the difference,” Vernon said. “Some of [the penalties] were for the formations we were in and in a few of those situations I feel like my guys were in the right formation. I can't do anything about that, but our guys were where they needed to be. We can't change our formations.”
If he thinks that was frustrating, Hillcrest coach John Beckham can do him one better.
In Hillcrest's 40-12 win over Glendale, the Hornets were called for 12 penalties and fumbled the ball five times.
Of course, the win was the perfect salve, but he knows those numbers won't get the team far.
“We were fortunate to get away with a win last week,” Beckham said. “We're not going to win in Waynesville if we do that.”
Glendale is trying to get things going with a new coach with new players and such.
The Tigers are a solid team, Beckham said.
“They lost to a couple of good teams, but they could be 2-0,” he said. “They are a play or two away from being 2-0 instead of 0-2.
“They're going to win a lot of ballgames this year. They're off to a slow start, but when I watch them on tape they don't have a lot of holes.”
Meanwhile, Beckham said he finds one missing piece in his team's puzzle: a big-play threat on offense.
“We're trying to find what we can do honestly,” Beckham said. “We don't have the playmakers like we've had the last few years. We're going to have to be consistent on offense. It's not likely that we are going to have a 60-yard touchdown. This is more of a move-the-chains offense.”
Ever since Beckham has been at Glendale it seems as if their offense has been in the spread due to strong quarterback play and tall, athletic receivers. This year it'll look a little different.
“We work out of multiple sets now,” Beckham said. “This year you'll see us in in the pro-set with a big tight end and multiple backs. It's just the personnel set we have.”
At Hillcrest's Shumate Stadium in Springfield last week, the Hornets' quarterback, Brady Petry, played exceptionally well.
Petry completed 12-17 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons, showing how efficient he can be.
“Brady throws the ball pretty well,” Beckham said. “He didn't play last year, so he's got some inexperience. Last week he was pretty consistent. He likes to throw the deep ball so that lowers his percentage a little bit.”
Vernon saw the same thing in tape and he wants to take advantage of it.
“We feel like we're going to be able to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback,”Vernon said. “Hopefully he'll make some wrong reads and we have a good secondary that can get the ball.”
TeNeil Stevenson, Waynesville's defensive back coach, said he and his unit take pride in their handiwork and welcome the challenge this week.
“We're just going to play our zones, play our coverages and really try to mix it up and confuse him,” Stevenson said. “We're just going to continue to do what we do, be physical and knock their receivers off their routes.”
The Tigers' defensive backfield have earned their nickname “the no-fly zone” so far this season.
Last week, at least two touchdowns were saved thanks to deflections in or directly in front of the end zone. Lebanon wound up 13-23 for 85 yards passing.
In the first week, West Plains finished 1-5 for four yards.
“I stress to those guys every single day that they're the best athletes on the field and they need to play like that,” Stevenson said. “Thus far, I think that's probably been one of the better units that we've had on the football team.”
If the defensive backs can keep that kind of production going this week, they're going to put their team in a good position to win their first game of the year.
Hillcrest's Stanley Murphy was the leading rusher last week with 60 yards on 22 carries.
Granted, they had good field position thanks to three interceptions and countless mistakes by the Falcons, but it's clear from what Beckham has said and the numbers on paper that the Hornets try to balance their offense.
Take away one of their weapons and the offense could tumble.
As for Waynesville's offense, cutting down on the fumbles is key.
Twice fumbles greatly altered the outcome of the game last week, even though only one resulted in a turnover.
It might be smoother sailing this week as Beckham said his base 3-4 defense has had its troubles with wrapping up on tackles this year.
“We have to tackle this week, especially [Waynesville's] quarterback,” Beckham said. “I don't want to say he single-handedly beat us last year, but he made some big plays.”
This week, the offense will need to be the one to take a step forward and make those big plays again if Waynesville wants to celebrate its first win of the season.