WAYNESFIELD — Last season, the Waynesfield-Goshen varsity football team opened their season with just two seniors, on the road against a veteran-laden Jefferson Wildcats squad.
The result was a 48-3 beatdown at the hands of the Wildcats when senior Austin Jettinghoff threw 7 of 8 for 138 yards and four touchdowns for Jefferson at Stadium Park in Delphos.
This season has a different feel to it, however, as the Tigers will host the Wildcats on Friday night to open the 2014 season.
“We worked hard over the summer, and I’m excited to see where we are,” said Tigers first-year coach Tyler Turner. “The kids are excited to see their hard work pay off.”
Coming into Friday’s nonconference match against the Wildcats, the Tigers field 10 seniors and five juniors, a far more experienced team than a season ago.
“With that year of growth, it’s really tremendous for us,” Turner said. “We’re still going to be starting some freshmen and sophomores throughout the game, but at the same time, that leadership that the seniors have developed is going to help our younger players.”
The Wildcats will take the field under the direction of first-year head coach Chris Sommers, who will be looking to take a 9-2 team a season ago (7-1 in the Northwest Conference) farther after losing to Ada in the postseason in 2013.
However, Sommers is playing with a somewhat younger team in 2014.
Despite inheriting 10 seniors, Sommers lost a large group of seniors from a season ago who helped Jefferson push into the playoffs.
“(Jefferson) reloads every year even though they lost a lot of seniors from a year ago,” Turner said. “I’m not sure that our 10 seniors is a true advantage for us however, we are further ahead of where we were last year. These guys have had plenty of playing time to prepare and they know the physicality that this Jefferson team brings. We’re not going to be shell-shocked.”
The Tigers have lost four consecutive season opening games and three straight home openers. This season will be the third consecutive year that W-G starts its season against the Wildcats, falling in the first two games by a combined score of 86-20.
Turner will rely on senior quarterback Lake Turner to command the wing-T offense that Turner incorporates.
Lake Turner looked impressive in last week’s scrimmage at Cory-Rawson throwing a touchdown pass and running for another.
“Lake Turner has done a great job picking up the offense and he has been than better ever at reading the defense,” Turner said. “He needs to have a big game for us.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Turner’s squad runs a 5-3 scheme, and the line will have to set the tone against the 5-foot-9, 160-pound senior and first-year starting quarterback Kurt Wollenhaupt.
Last season the Wildcats ran all over the Tigers, pounding out 257 yards on the ground, and Jettinghoff was never sacked in the game.
Turner needs more production from his defensive line this year.
“Defensively, Brandon Bly and Scotty Garee are two seniors who are going to play defensive end and we are looking to lead us on that side of the ball this season,” said Turner. “They’re going to be tested and we need them to play big for us on Friday.”
The Tigers had success containing the running game against Cory-Rawson. Aside from a long 70-yard run, W-G stymied the Hornets’ running game and pressured senior quarterback Matthew Alspach for much of the scrimmage.
Friday’s game sets up for a big stage for Turner as he coaches on the same field he used to play. Yet, Turner feels no pressure and is focused on getting his team back to the winning ways he experienced when he was a player.
“I don’t feel the pressure,” he said. “Taking this team to the next level is my job. I was fortunate enough to have played on some great teams, I know what that feels like and I want that for my players. The pressure isn’t on me; my main focus is getting the maximum potential out of my players and taking them to that next level.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Waynesfield.
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