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Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly is coming off a convincing win over two-time defending state champ Chenango Forks for its first Section IV, Class C title since 2015. Longtime coach Jason Miller says it's "business as usual" for the Wolverines as they prepare to begin play in the state playoffs Saturday night.

The Wolverines, now 10-1 and ranked No. 1 in the State, will square off with General Brown (9-1), ranked sixth in the State after a 41-0 win over Holland-Patent in the Section III championship game. Kick-off is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

It’s was the Wolverines’ fourth Section IV title under longtime coach Jason Miller, but the first for any of the players on the team.

“We haven’t changed a thing. We’re just going through our normal routine.

“The advantage this week is an extra day of practice,” said Miller. It gives us an opportunity to prepare for what (General Brown) does, we haven’t seen a true mid-line, triple-option team like they are.

“Other than that, nothing’s changed,” Miller added. “The routine has remained the same — just like previous weeks. We’re just trying to go 1-0 this week.”

Miller likes where his team is mentally heading into the state playoffs.

“I think we have a good mind-set,” he said. “We certainly celebrated the win (over Chenango Forks) over the weekend, and re-focused on Monday.

“We certainly have a lot of confidence, but I’m not concerned about being too confident,” he noted. “Most of our kids are athletically-minded, they understand what you accomplish in one game, means nothing the next.

“Our focus has been good, and we’ve had another good week of practice,” added Miller. “We’ve been focused even when the elements are not great, it’s certainly colder than it was last week.”

Miller doesn’t believe the cold weather will impact Waverly’s balanced offense more than General Brown’s run-oriented offense.

“I don’t think people give us enough credit for our ability to run the ball,” he said.

Obviously, we’ve put a lot of emphasis with (QB) Joe (Tomasso) on that … a lot of of it has to do with the numbers in the box. If they crowd the box, we use that extra blocker.

“I think, regardless of the elements, we’re going to be able to run the ball,” noted Miller. “I think we’ve proven that every single week. There hasn’t been a week where we couldn’t run the ball when we’ve put our mind to it.

“If the conditions merit more of an emphasis on the run, we’ll be prepared for it,” he added.

General Brown enters the game averaging 46.5 points, and 455.5 yards in total offense per game, including 384 yards per game on the ground, while Waverly allows 13.8 points per game, and had forced 22 turnovers.

Senior Kaleb Natali leads a balanced Lions rushing attack with 1,056 yards, and 13 TDs on 125 carries, while senior Gabe Malcolm has 972 yards and 11 TDs on 95 carries, Devine has 718 yards and 10 TDs on 115 carries, and junior QB Aiden McManaman has 488 yards and four TDs on 69 carries.

McManaman has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 697 yards, seven TDs, and just one interception. Senior Sheamus  Devine is his leading receiver with 16 grabs for 206 yards and one TDs, and senior Kaleb Natal had eight catches for 178 yards and one TDs. McManaman has thrown TD passes to six different receivers.

“I compare (General Brown’s) offensive style to a Navy or an Air Force,” said Miller. “They’re is a lot of mid-line triple option, trying to outnumber you at the point-of-attack.

“They’re very good at running the fly sweep, where they pull linemen and run a toss — that’s their main play,” noted Miller. “They’re very good at executing it … they have good, tough linemen who are 210 pounds and get to the edge real quick.”

Waverly enters the game averaging 36.9 points and 372.8 yards in total offense per game, while General Brown allows 10..6 points per game, and has forced 19 turnovers.

The Wolverines feature a balanced offense, throwing for 195.3 yards per game, and rushing for 177.5  yards per game.

Junior QB Joey Tomasso has completed 64.6 percent (148 of 229) of his passes for 2,148 yards and 24 TDs, with six interceptions.

Junior Jay Pipher is Waverly’s leading receiver with 53 grabs for 1,022 yards and 11 TDs, while junior Jake VanHouten has 30 catches for 398 yards and three TDs, and senior Isaiah Bretz has 30 receptions for 223 yards and four TDs.

Tomasso also leads the Wolverines in rushing with 689 yards and 13 TDs on 87 carries, while senior Braeden Hills has 317 yards and three TDs on 49 caries, Pipher has 249 yards and four TDs on 21 carries, and senior Kayleb Bechy has 232 yards and five TDs on 37 carries.

“(General Brown) will be in a 4-3 Cover 2, which is a different coverage than we normally see,” said Miller. “In Section IV, we don’t see a lot of two-high safeties because of everybody’s ability to run the ball. That’s different, so we’re adjusting formations and routes accordingly.”

“We have to avoid turnovers,” said Miller. “You can’t turn the ball over and give teams more possessions than they deserve.

“We can’t give up big plays, we can’t allow them to have quick-scoring strikes in the run game,” he noted. “We have to be disciplined in the secondary, not to get sucked in on the run. They are very good at play-action, getting people in the box, and then throwing over the top of them.

“Special teams will be a key,” added Miller. “It’s always windy up there, so if we have an opportunity for (kicker) Ryan (Clark) to pin them deep, that’s what we’ll do.”

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