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MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: MILLER PLEASED WITH TEAM'S PLAY AGAINST FORKS; AND WITH SECTION IV SEASON (2019-10-28)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY "” Waverly closed out the Section IV portion of its schedule Friday night with a 27-7 loss to state-ranked powerhouse Chenango Forks, but longtime Wolverine coach Jason Miller believes his team, despite a 3-5 record, had a good season in the rugged Class B ranks.

"I think we've had a really good season, which can be hard to say when you're 3-5, but sometimes the measure of your success is not based solely on your wins," he said.

"We were in every game. Forks and Norwich had taken control of the games heading into the fourth quarter, but in the other games we were right in it until the final possessions.

"If I can get kids to play their hardest ... and have a relentless attitude toward trying to compete, I can't ask anymore of them," said Miller. "We had very few penalties throughout the year, and we were pretty consistent in every game of playing pretty good football.

"Obviously, I wish we could have won a couple of the closer games - CV, M-E and Owego ...and we beat a talented Class A team in U-E.

"It's just a different level of football, I'm proud of the way we played," added Miller. "If Forks goes on to win a state title, and I think someone from Section IV will, it will be reflective of what we encountered every week."

Waverly scored late in the first half to trim the deficit to 13-7, then stopped Forks in the red zone in he closing seconds to remain within six points at the half. Forks scored on its first possession of the second half, and on the first play of the fourth quarter to seal the win.

"I don't know if every team I've had has gone into the (Chenango Forks) game, whether it be a (Section IV) semifinal or a regular-season game with this team's attitude, knowing we were outmanned.

"I look back at 2017, and we never had a chance in that game. We were intimidated and didn't execute at all," said Miller. "Maybe we were a little worse, and they were a little better ... obviously, we had a lot on our minds two years ago, but we were never in that game.

"With this group, we've had tremendous leadership from our seniors and our veterans, and that's whey we've been able to compete; and that's really important," noted Miller. "Your attitude is so important in how you approach each week.

"Im proud of the way we've been able to prepare, and have a short memory when we've needed it," he added.

The Wolverines run game Friday managed just 37 yards against the rugged Forks defense.

"The last few weeks, we've played some really good run defenses," said Miller. "I make no bones about it, our offensive line is vastly under-sized compared to who we're playing against.

"We probably average 190 pounds up front, and that makes it tough. The brawn and might up front is such a huge part of a football game, unless you're that much more athletic than the other team, which we're not, it's very difficult to run.

"We've tried many different run schemes over the last 10 weeks trying to find a way to run the football, and we've found a little success with the jet sweep lately," noted Miller. "We've tried multiple different personnel groupings with tight ends, without tight ends, with an extra back ... we've tried a lot of things, but just haven't been very successful at it.

"Despite that, our offensive line has done a tremendous job this season. When you can't move people, and open holes, nobody is going to be able to run," added Miller. "With that said, Friday night we allowed our first true (quarterback) sack. A lot of that falls on Joe (Tomasso) because he gets rid of the football, but our pass protection has been very good."

Tomasso completed 9 of 22 pass attempts for 97 yards and one TD, a 50-yard catch-and-run score by senior Ethan Stotler, against Forks.

"(Forks) did a really good job of taking the single-receiver side away," said Miller. "Most people wouldn't realize this, but it's not what they did in the secondary, it's what did with their front.

"Their defensive ends are 6-5 and they stayed on the line-of-scrimmage. They came up field about a yard, which is right in the passing lane for the hitch, which we are really good at doing, and got their hands up. That took the hitch away.

"They also rolled their coverage up ... there wasn't much separation or space between the receivers and the corners to begin with. They did a real god job of getting their hands up, and made that throw difficult.

"We really had to go to something else, and we had worked hard on that all week, with a run-pass option off of it based on the linebacker's alignment," added Miller. "(The linebacker) stayed in the box, and they did something different that we hadn't seen. They had a good scheme."

Chenango Forks rushed for 421 yards, with 6-3, 255-pound fullback Lucas Scott accounting for 249 yards and three TDs on 34 carries.

"You hope you can hold them to 2 1/2 or 3 yards per carry, (but) Lucas Scott leads forward for 6 or 7 yards," said Miller.

"They purposely don't punt, and when you're running Scott you're going to get 2 1/2 yards per carry," he noted.  "Despite that, I thought we did a very good job of tackling him. There was a lot of contact that was very low, and we worked very hard last week on tackling around the knees, instead of hitting high. I thought we made some improvement in that area.

"I thought we did a very good job of gang-tackling," added Miller. "With that said, their offensive linemen are all 300 pounds, and they get movement. Scott is on the linebackers before you realize it with a full head of steam downhill. It's just a challenge."

The Blue Devils completed just one pass in five attempts for zero yards in the win.

"We put nine guys in the box, and I thought we executed about as well as we could," said Miller. "To do that, I was very concerned about the pass, but I thought Jalen (McCarty) and Caden (Wheeler) did a really good job in the secondary, really covering three receivers with two guys.

"(Forks) just beat us up," added Miller. "Over the course of the game, they wore us down."

Miller said the best phase of the game Friday for the Wolverines was special teams.

"I thought we did a really good job on special teams.

"I thought we did a great job on kick coverage," said Miler. "Our punting was much better, and our snaps were much better.

"We didn't have a lot of opportunities, but it was pretty flawless on special teams," he added.

GRADE: B+: "(Forks) is a pretty good football team, and I'm happy with the way we played," said Miller. "I thought we played all 48 minutes as hard as we could.

"Based on the short discussions I had with a few (Forks) players and coaches, I think they knew they were in a football game, too," added Miller.

"”"”"”"”"”"”

IN PHOTO: Waverly coach Jason Miller.

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