By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly’s 7-3 home loss to Owego Friday was its third straight divisional setback, and virtually eliminates the Wolverines from postseason play, but longtime coach Jason Miller said it doesn’t effect what they will do the remainder of the season.
“It doesn’t change what we’re doing,” said Miller. “(Making the playoffs) was one of our goals that was set out for the team in the beginning of the year. The kids certainly bought into it, they want to make the playoffs, those are important and meaningful games.
“The reality is, no matter what game you’re playing in, it’s a meaningful game,” noted Miller. “Our focus now, is to get to a winning season, which would be a great accomplishment.
“Let’s not let the big picture take away from what the task at hand is, and that’s playing one game at a time,” added Miller. “Our focus really needs to be, let’s get better at something every day at practice.”
As for the loss Friday, Miller said the Wolverines had their opportunities.
“We had two red-zone opportunities, close to the 10-yard line, and we only get three points out of it,” he said. “If we score on one of those possessions, potentially it’s a different outcome.”
Miller credits Owego coach Steve Virkler and his staff’s defensive scheme.
“Owego did a good job masking what they were doing, and kind of got us out of synch with what we doing on offense.
“It was a lot of smoke-and-mirrors,” said Miller. “If we had just stuck with what we normally do, with the controlled passing game, instead of vertically, where it appeared open, I think we would have been all right.
“The hitches were open all night. By appearance pre-snap it didn’t look like that was a possibility, but in post-snap they really dropped and rotated the safeties down into the vertical seams inside, and that’s what we had been so successful at,” said Miller. “Owego did a good job of taking that away.”
Miller said 8th-grade QB Joey Tomasso’s first-half interception was just a “great play” by the Owego defensive back.
“On the first interception, the Owego kid just rotated hard from the hash, right down into the pass,” said Miller. “He was off about 15 yards, so pre-snap Joe (Tomasso) though it was there. The backer on that side was blitzing, so there’s nothing underneath to carry him, and they rotated from four-across into a Sky coverage and he just stepped right in front of it — it was a great play.
“That’s what (Joey) had to deal with,” added Miller. “Owego is very good at doing that, and it’s been problematic for us over the years.”
Miller said the Waverly running game was better than he previously thought.
“After watching film, I thought we ran the ball much more effectively than I perceived on Friday,” he said. “We did something different things that we hadn’t done this year, as far as blocking schemes with X-blocking and such … we just need to continue to grow there, and add a wrinkle or two.”
Miller said the Wolverine defense was stellar.
“We played well defensively, with the exception of the (Owego) touchdown play.
“We had four guys stop, thinking someone else was going to make the play, and by that time the kid had a full-head of steam down the sideline, and a couple of missed tackles later he’s in the end zone,” said Miller.
Owego’s workhorse Gio Fabi was held to 31 yards.
“We did a really good job of taking away what they have had success with — the veer,” said Miller. “And, the quarterback keep off the veer, we did a good job of containing that, too.
“It was an outstanding defensive effort. We have guys who continue to grow as players, and grow as young men on and off the field.
“Take a guy like Hunter Rando. Most people would not recognize his name, but he has become an outstanding football player,” said Miller. “He plays balls out every single play, and is becoming a really good defensive end, and one of our leaders on defense.
“Inside linebacker Cayden Turcsik is really playing well for us also,” noted Miller. “In addition, Trevor Morse, Kam Peters, and Trent Skeens at defensive tackles, and.Pat Shay at the other defensive end have all been playing very well.”
Miller also noted the strong play of players who weren’t in the starting line-up at the start of the season.
“We’re playing with a lot of ‘next’ men,” he said. “That’s one thing that makes me proud is a guy like Austin Kimble made his first start at linebacker Friday) … it took a little while to get into the flow, but he ended up having a really good game with Thomas (Price) out.
“The idea we constantly sell is that we need to play with who is on the field, and I think they did a really good job,” noted Miller. “We got great contributions from Austin (Kimble) and D.J. Shaw saw his first varsity action and did a nice job.
“The reality is that we’re playing guys who in August were back-ups, and this past week were starters.
“I thought we played a very good defensive game, and had very few breakdowns,” added Miller. “If you hold a team to 7 points, you ought to be winning, and we did have our chances.”
Miller was pleased with the special teams play.
“Anytime a team lines up and kicks a field goal in high school, that’s a good play,” said Miller of junior Alex Gadow’s 26-yard 3-pointer. “It put us in position to potentially score and win later in the game.
“Kick-off coverage was good,” he noted. “It always tough against Owego because they have ‘star-burst’ returns, fake-reverse returns, and more, but we kicked the ball to an area where they really couldn’t do that.
“The only concern was they did get some pressure on our punter, but I thought Ethan (Stotler) did a good job of getting the ball off. He punted it very well, and changed field-position a couple of times in that game.
“Our special teams were pretty good,” added Miller.
GRADE: B+. “I really think we played very hard. We had situations, where we really played good football, especially on defense.
“The one thing that really resonates with me is that you can see the passion in there eyes,” said Miller. “There were a lot of tears after that game, and that’s meaningful — it says a lot about the character of the people on this team.
“You can’t really teach that, it’s something innate they have, and it’s really important to me. If you have kids who want to be successful, they’re going to find a way to be successful,” added Miller.
IN PHOTO: Waverly coach Jason Miller.
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