By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly will make a brief return to the Class B football wars in 2019 (and return to Class C in 2020), and longtime coach Jason Miller said he wants his Wolverines to "compete every single week."
(Waverly opens the 2019 campaign Friday night at Class A Union-Endicott.)
“I think for the young group we have, which is a mix of experienced players and very young players, the realistic goal is to take it one day at a time.
“It’s hard to set goals down the line at this point,” said Miller. “It’s foolish to look beyond where you’re at. If we stay focused, continue to improve, and continue to get stronger in the weight room, I think there’s a good possibility this will be a good football team.
“Our ultimate goal should be to make the playoffs, and to continue to improve as a team,” he noted. “If by Week 9, we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, then we’ll start thinking about a Sectional championship.
“Most of all, I think this team should have the expectation to compete every single week,” added Miller.
Senior Joe Buffone will anchor the offensive line at center, with senior Trevor Morse at left guard, and senior Brandon Clark or junior Logan Shipman at right guard. Senior Noah Carpenter will start at right tackle, and junior Trevor Meyers will man the left tackle spot.
Eighth-grader Joey Tomasso will start at quarterback, with junior David Hallett, and senior Thomas Price getting the majority of carries at running back, and junior Austin Kimble working his way into the mix.
Seniors Scott Woodring and Ethan Stotler will start at the X receiver, with juniors Aidan Westbrook and Griffen Stein also seeing time there, while senior Jalen McCarty, and juniors Caden Wheeler and Gaven Anthony will see time at slot back.
Miller has faith in his offensive line, and his returning running backs.
“I believe we’ll be able to run the football. David Hallett and Thomas Price are proven backs, and Austin Kimble runs very hard down hill. I would view our running game as a strength.
“We have to call plays to give them the best chance to be successful, and to give our line the best change to be successful,” said Miller. “We don’t want to force anything.
“Also on the edge, having kids who are 6-2, 6-3 and 6-8 helps a lot,” noted Miller. “I think Jaylen (McCarty) and Caden (Wheeler) are strong inside in the slot, and Gavin Anthony is a sure-handed receiver.
“We expect it will take a few games, and a lot more practices for some of younger guys, but somewhere down the line Griffin Stein and Alex Gadow are going to help us out.
“I think offensively, we have some weapons,” added Miller.
One of the big storylines of the preseason was Tomasso’s role as starting QB as an 8th-grader.
“We have a very young quarterback, but he doesn’t play like it, and he doesn’t act like it,” said Miller. “He is a sponge for anything you throw at him.
“He’s going to go through some struggles, and some growing pains,” noted Miller.
“He’s been phenomenal in the preseason, but you’re judged by what you do in games,” he added. “We don’t want to put too much on his shoulders. He’s fortunate to have good people around him. There’s nothing more comforting than having good running backs next to you.”
Miller said as the play-caller, giving the offense the ability to succeed falls on his shoulders.
“I think getting off-schedule is my biggest concern,” he said. “We want to try to control the clock, but at the same time we’re going to progress throughout the year.
“I’m going to try to get after it, I think our best chance is to try to utilize our athletes,” said Miller. “This offense is designed to get athletes in space, and try to gain an advantage with a mismatch, or by trying to get people out of position.
“A lot of that falls on me, and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he added.
Miller believe the Wolverine defense could be the team’s strength before it’s all said and done in 2019.
“I think one of our strengths is going to be our defensive line,” he said. “We have a little more experience on the defensive side of the ball, they’ve played in some big games.”
The Wolverines will also have a different look on defense this season, switching from the 3-4 to the 4-3.
“Our defensive philosophy is changing a bit.,” said Miller. “We’re going to bend, but we do not want to give up big pass plays … when you do that you have to be able to stop the run.
“We’ve been playing with seven guys in the box for years, now there’s going to be eight. It’s a very different approach for us. I think we need that in Class B,” noted Miller. “It’s a schematic change for us by alignment and assignment. I think it fits our personnel.
“We have some strong kids on the defensive line,” added Miller. It’s a different philosophy, so we’re able to play some bigger kids. I think our front four is going to develop and be very good.”
Senior Patrick Shay and junior Hunter Rando will start at defensive ends, with Shipman and Morse, along with junior Kamden Peters playing the defensive tackle positions.
“I have been so impressed with Logan Shipman,” said Miller. “He’s been a force in the preseason.”
Three-year starter Thomas Price and sophomore Caden Turcsik will play inside linebackers, with Hallett and Stotler playing on the outside.
Anthony will provide depth at outside linebacker, as will newcomer junior Niko DeSisti.
McCarty and Wheeler will play cornerback, with junior Alex Gadow or Westbrook playing free safety.
“My biggest concern with our defense is tackling,” said Miller. “Facing the kind of speed we’ll see each week, we need to get to the football and finish off the play once we get there.
“No matter who you play in Class B, they have someone you better be able to tackle, or it’s going to be a long night,” added Miller. “I think we have guys capable of being good tacklers, and finishing off plays.”
On special teams, Gadow will handled the punting and kicking chores.
“Alex is a very good kicker,” said Miller. He’s unproven in games, but he has a very strong leg and I think he’s going to be very good.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have some very good kickers in the past, and I think Alex will fall in line with every single one of them,” added Miller.
Hallett will handle the long-snapping chores for the Wolverines, and Anthony and McCarty will return punts and kickoffs.
“Special teams are critical,” said Miller. “We’ve had a very good preseason as far as repping our special teams.”
AROUND DIVISION III and CLASS B
There are eight teams in Section IV, Class B, which comprises Division III. Each team will play every other team in the division, with the top four in the division advancing to the Class B playoffs in Week 9.
“I really like the format, I think it’s fair. Everybody plays everybody, there are no excuses,” said Miller.
"Everyone has to prove themselves, and the top four make it into the playoffs,” he noted. “It would be a tremendous accomplishment to once again make the playoffs. We’re probably going to have to win four, maybe five games, which is a very difficult proposition, but it’s our goal.”
The powers at the top of Class B haven’t changed — Chenango Forks and Maine-Endwell.
“Chenango Forks has one of the best offensive lines in the Section, and definitely have one of the biggest and strong running backs in Lucas Scott,” said Miller. “Defensively, Forks is a machine, they are so sound.
“Maine-Endwell has its entire Little League World Series group coming up,” noted Miller. “It’s a plethora of athletes who are really going to be good. I think it might take them a couple games, but they are going to be very good.
“Nothing has changed for Maine-Endwell or Chenago Forks,” added Miller.
The veteran Waverly coach also believes Owego could make some noise.
“Owego probably has the best defensive players in the Section, if not one of the better defensive tackles in the state,” said Miller. “It starts with Gio Fabi on defense for them, and they have a solid nucleus on defense around him.
“They are a good defensive team … they’re going to challenge people, and they’re going to give people fits,” added Miller. "And, Coach (Steve) Virkler always does a good job of putting together an offense based on his personnel."
The rest of the division is dangerous as well, says Miller.
“Norwich has a lot returning, and will be very good.
“Johnson City has some good athletes, and a new coach,” said Miller. “I think they will be a much-improved team.
“Chenango Valley has a new coach, and some very good athletes, and Oneonta has some good athletes, too,” Miller added.
Miller expects the season to be a grind.
“Week to week, every week is going to be a tremendous challenge,” he said, “It’s going to be a lot of fun, and it’s going to make us work very hard.
“Any win that comes to us is going to be very special,” added Miller.
IN PHOTO: Waverly coach Jason Miller.
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