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MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: MILLER PLEASED WITH WAVERLY'S 'UNEXPECTED' 2-0 START (7 PHOTOS) (2019-09-16)

BY TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY "” Longtime Waverly coach Jason Miller knows there were a lot of expectations surrounding his team in 2019, so he couldn't be more pleased with the Wolverines' "unexpected" 2-0 start after their win over Johnson City Friday night.

"A lot of people didn't expect us to be 2-0 at this point," said Miller. "It's nice to have the confidence from the previous two games, and it's nice being 2-0 heading into a real important divisional game (at Maine-Endwell).

"The road leads to Maine-Endwell and Chenango Forks, and here's our opportunity to play Maine-Endwell.

"When we watch film, there are definitely a lot of things we can improve on, but I'm seeing a lot of good things," added Miller. "The confidence doesn't come just from winning, it comes from making subtle improvements on things that were not so good in Week 1 and not so good in the scrimmage."

Miller's belief is a team will make its biggest improvement between Week 1 and Week 2.

"In a lot of ways I did see a progression," said Miller. "There were a lot of fundamental things that the average person would not see, but when you look at it on film you can see getting better.

"I think our tackling is getting better,"he noted. "We've really concentrated on it in practice every day.

"And, things as simple as stances, and staying square on the line-of-scrimmage," added Miller. "There are a lot of little things that are subtlety getting better, and the little things will lead to our bigger success."

Waverly rushed for 182 yards, and threw for 105 more in the win.

"There were times when we didn't pick up a backer, or sustain a block long enough, but when I watched the film it was better than what I perceived it to be Friday night," said Miller.

"We got different guys involved in the run game, and we ran to a lot of different areas on the field - outside and in," noted Miller. "David (Hallett) had the burden of the majority of the carries, and (Thomas Price and Austin Kimble) gave us a real spark. I think we learned something - that our carries need to be distributed a little better.

"We need to start trusting other backs, especially Austin (Kimble) should get a few more carries. We need to rotate people around. David is a great runner, but he's also a great blocker - a load to take on.

"I saw improvement in our run game, for sure," added Miller.

Perhaps most importantly, Miller saw a progression in 8th-grade QB Joey Tomasso.

"I did see an improvement in Joey (Tomasso).

"He's efficient and he sees the field," said Miller. "On film, you can see certain things he's looking off now, then coming back and throwing down the seam. He's in absolute control of the huddle, and he's in absolute control of our hurry-up game.

"The biggest thing is how he'll stay in and hold the ball as long as he possibly can to get a look at what's going on downfield," noted Miller.

"On the touchdown to Jalen (McCarty), Joey got laid out. He didn't shy away from it, a lot of guys would tuck it and run, but he kept his eyes downfield; that's a real sign of maturity when the quarterback is keeping his eyes downfield, although he feels it peripherally. It's impressive.

"I keep saying he's going to take a step back, but he didn't this week," added Miller.

In the week leading up to the Johnson City, the Wolverines lost 6-8 senior wide receiver Scott Woodring to what is likely to be a season-ending injury, but Miller may have found a replacement in junior Aidan Westbrook.

"(Aidan Westbrook) had two big receptions Friday night - he's a weapon," said Miller.

"He has improved more than anyone on offense," he said. "He is consistently catching the ball in practice, and he consistently runs his routes very hard. Fundamentally, he catches the ball away from his body probably better than any receiver we have.

"He's a really good football player, and he doesn't know it yet.

"It hurts losing Scott (Woodring). We lose a leader, and we lose his presence on the field, but (Westbrook) has done a great job stepping into that role," added Miller. "You're going to see more and more of him, and he's going to have more and more catches every week."

Defensively, the Wolverines held JC's running game to just 63 yards on 25 carries, with 55 yards coming on three carries late in the game.

"We really had a good plan," said Miller. "We played man on the outside. (Johnson City) had some plays they had been running, and we just took them away.

"I thought our defensive front did a really good job controlling the line-of-scrimmage," he noted. "They are pretty good up front, and initially they got a push on us in the first possession, but we settled down and took away what they wanted to do, and had been successful with against Ithaca, and in their scrimmage against Elmira and Susquehanna Valley.

"I thought our kids did a really good job of tackling, and I really liked the way we got to the ball," added Miller. "I felt when we got to the ball there was a little bit of an attitude. There were some super hits - good individual tackles. That's what I like because when they know you're there, they're thinking about it the next time."

The Wolverines forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs.

"Caden Wheeler jumped a slant route perfectly, and it got tipped to Ethan Stotler, who returned it for a TD," said Miller "And, Alex Gadow was in great position for his pick.

"Jalen (McCarty) made one of the best picks you're going to see all year, then returned it for a score," noted Miller.

"The guys are playing hard, and paying attention to details in practice," added Miller. "Turnovers are key. (JC) had four turnovers, and those are huge momentum changes. Three picks and a fumble recovery - that's solid."

The punting game is usually a facet of the game that gets noticed when things go wrong, but senior Ethan Stotler's punting played a big part in Waverly's win Friday night.

"Stotler's punts changed field position," said Jason Miller.

"I thought Gaven Anthony was super on punt and kick coverage. He was down there and had a couple of opportunities for big hits. He's flying down the field on special teams, and I like that," noted Miller. "He's embracing that role and making big plays. He's becoming a very good player for us there.

"Field position is key, whether you're kicking off or punting, and I thought we did a very good job of covering both," added Miller.

GRADE: B+. "It was a good win," said Miller.

"It wasn't perfect, there's a lot to work on," he added. "We need to keep improving - in practice and in the weight room. We need to learn how to give complete effort throughout the week, and this is a week we need it more than ever."

"”"”"”"”"”"”

IN PHOTO: Waverly coach Jason Miller. PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.


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