WAYNESFIELD – Seven points.
That was the difference that cost Waynesfield-Goshen a spot in the playoffs last year as the Tigers ended up 7-3 after losing to Hardin Northern, 21-14, in the last game of the season.
But even though W-G came up short, head coach Shane Wireman sees another successful season in 2020.
“I think we just learned to compete in those close games,” Wireman said. “We moved from 5-5 to 7-3 last year and started getting a little more in the mix and seeing the kids grow and overcome adversity. We ended the year with a tough game against Hardin Northern on the road that went down to the wire so that kind of throws a log on the fire to motivate you for the offeseason and guys have been working really hard.”
Yes, the Tigers will have to replace the talents of Kyle Searson and Joel Rickle, both who were forces on both sides of the ball but Wireman said they have a lot of quality players returning and a lot of young players ready to prove themselves.
“We graduated some experience with some good seniors but I told those guys they can kind of be the road map to show those guys what good football looks like,” Wireman said. “The biggest thing is we want to focus on is being that family. We are going to have some young guys out there so at moments we will look young and we just want to make sure we don’t get too low in those moments and pick each other up and then build on the positive.”
The Tigers offense may have lost the one-two combo of Rickle and Searson from the backfield but three-year stater Cooper Roberts returns behind center to provide solid leadership.
Looking to help fill the void in the running game will be Blake Barnes, who saw valuable minutes last two season and will be called on to be the Tigers’ featured tailback. Joining Barnes will be sophomore Hunter Craig at fullback.
Roberts will have plenty of targets to choose from in the passing game with three seniors returning highlighted by Layton Campbell, a three-year starter.
“I think we have some good depth in the skilled positions,” Wireman said. “We are not sitting in a bad spot and are good for what we have for a small school program.”
But Wireman knows it will be the efforts of the offensive line that will enable the Tigers’ offense to move the ball and second-team All-NWCC tackle Austin Birt anchors the line. Adding experience on the line is Ryder Siebeneck, a three-year starter and sophomore Chase Dunson returns at center.
“We have three guys back solid there and we have a couple of spots on the left side and seeing who is going to win those spots,” Wireman said. “Right now we have a couple of sophomore and a couple of freshmen so it is a very competitive situation so we are going to see who are going to win those spots right now.”
Wireman looks to bolster the passing game again this year with Roberts at the helm and a veteran receiving corps but at the same understands the importance of the running game.
“I look for us to lean a little bit more to the passing game with having the experience at the quarterback position and receivers,” Wireman said. “We are going to try and be balanced and keep teams honest and you have to scout yourself.”
Defensively, like most years, many of the Tigers will be going both ways.
Wireman said he would like to see a little more rotation on the defensive line.
Sophomore Aiden Biederman will see time on the line and as linebacker.
The Tigers will have to rebuild the linebacking group after losing four players to graduation.
In the secondary Joseph Broadman, who has not been a starter, will get a chance this year as will Avery Durham and Jaden Elliott that should be in the mix as well,
“Defensively we are going to be multiple,” Wireman said. “We are starting to see more and more spread teams so we look to use that three man front more and more than we have in the past and we want to bring a little more pressure with the blitz,” Wireman said. “We are going to bring some pressure out of necessity to make up for the experience so that will keep the offense guessing where the pressure is coming from.”
Wireman said without a spring or summer to work on things the emphasis has been on being the best a player can be at practice in order for the coaching staff to evaluate individuals and who might start and who might sit.
“We have been very open with them that some open spots are very competitive and every rep matters so you don’t want to do anything that may cause you to slide down the depth chart and knowing that there is not a scrimmage around the corner you have to shine Monday through Friday at practice which is a great mindset to bring anyway,” Wireman said. “It has been good but it has also been uncomfortable.”
Wireman added that preparation for the six-game schedule is pretty much the same but pointed out that you have also prepare for the unknown and control the things they control up to this point and not individuals not lose their edge.
With every team making the playoffs, Wireman said the important thing is to get off to a quick start and be playing your best football by week seven when the postseason begins.
“I would say that is everybody’s goal and that is playing your best football regardless of your record when that week seven rolls around,” Wireman said. “Obviously you want to stay healthy.”