By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly coach Jason Miller acknowledges his team got outplayed, and even manhandled in its 40-20 Homecoming loss to Norwich Friday, but the defeat had nothing to do with a lack of effort.
“I don’t question the kids’ effort,” said Miller. “Sometimes you just line up against people, and on that particular evening they’re better than you are. I think that was the case Friday.
“We have to do a better job tackling, and we have to do a better job blocking. You can’t win football jobs if you can’t do those two things — it’s just that simple.
“Our effort is there,” he noted. “We just need to improve our execution, and that’s what you do in practice. We just need to keep improving on the little things that make you a better football player, and we have a couple weeks to do that.
“It was not a very good night,” added Miller. “We just didn’t play well.”
The longtime Waverly mentor also noted the Wolverines missed out on an opportunity to start the second half.
“This game is all about momentum,” said Miller. “We scored two touchdowns in less than 30 seconds to put us back in the game. It was a great turnaround going into the half.
“We had the ball coming back out (of the half) and didn’t do anything with it,” he continued. “Norwich drove and scored on their first possession … again momentum had changed.
“We got a little flat, started tackling too high, and that’s when we started missing tackles,” added Miller. “That’s when the game turned, that when I felt the shift and we never got it back.”
Eighth-grade Joey Tomasso completed a season-low 41 percent (16 of 39) of his passes for 164 yards and two TDs, while the ground game accounted for just 91 yards on 16 carries, with 80 yards coming on a pair of jet sweeps by junior Caden Wheeler.
“We didn’t throw the ball well, and we couldn’t run it,” said Miller. “Obviously, when you can’t run, and you’re not completing balls, statistically you’re going to be pretty bad.
“Nothing seemed to click, but I wouldn’t do anything different,” noted Miller. “In fact, I’d use the exact same game plan. Guys were open and we missed them, or guys were dropping balls. We just have to execute better.
“There were positive things with the reach and the jet sweep, but overall the offensive performance was pretty poor,” he added.
Miller said the difference in the game is “plain and simple.”
“Norwich was certainly tougher than us up front, and more physical than we were. We didn’t handle their pinch-scheme very well on the offensive line, so it made it incredibly difficult to run.”
Defensively, the Wolverines held all-everything QB Griffin Mills to 91 rushing yards and just two completions (in 10 attempts) for 17 yards, and intercepted him twice, but tailback David Berger lit them up for 278 yards and four TDs on 27 carries.
“You can only prepare for what you see, and (Norwich) hadn’t run (David) Berger at all,” said Miller. “In the whole scheme of things, he had been a very small part of the Norwich offense.
“And, they never ran him downhill either, never got in an I-formation,” he noted. “I think they committed to him Friday, and maybe that’s because no one had been able to stop (QB Griffin) Mills, and they never felt like they had to run the tailback.
“We just didn’t tackle (Berger) very well, and he’s one of the fastest kids in the Section,” added Miller. “When he got into open space, we weren’t going to catch him.”
Miller said it wasn’t all bad on defense.
“I thought there were times we were vey physical on defense, and had a lot of good plays.
“Caden Wheeler had another good game, and we created some turnovers with the picks,” he said. “We made a lot of really good plays.
“Norwich just executed better than we did,” added Miller. “That comes down to being better prepared for what they did to us, and that all falls on me.”
One of the biggest plays of the game was a blocked punt in the second quarter that Norwich recovered in the end zone for a score to make it 14-0.
On Waverly’s previous punt, Ethan Stotler fielded a two-hop snap, delayed his punt to allow his coverage team to get down field, and pinned the Purple Tornadoes at their own 15.
“The first time (Norwich) didn’t rush, so you say that’s a good play, don’t punt it until our coverage gets down field.
“The second punt really was a bad play,” said Miller. “Backed up in your own end zone, you just don’t hang on to the football. You have to get rid of the football.”
“We didn’t snap the ball well the entire evening,” he said. “We’ve done a pretty good job of snapping all season, but Friday I don’t know if one ball didn’t roll back there the entire evening.
“It was poor execution,” added Miler. “It comes down to situations where we just don’t have a lot of football intelligence.”
After a Stotler interception set up a Waverly score that cut the deficit to 20-7, Jalen McCarty came out the pile on the ensuing kickoff with the ball. Wheeler scored on a 34-yard run on the next play to make it 20-14.
“D.J. Shaw had the big hit to cause the fumble, and we were able to recover it, and score very quickly,” said Miller. “It put us right back in the ball game.”
GRADE: B. “I hate to give a bad grade because the kids work really hard,” said Miller. “Yeah, we ended up getting beat 40-20, and (Norwich) physically manhandled us, but it’s not because of effort.”
IN PHOTO: Waverly coach Jason Miller.