Wahama heads into the 2011 football season with a lot of momentum. The White Falcons finished 2010 with an undefeated regular season record, No. 1 ranking and eventual trip to the state championship game – a contest won 28-14 by Class A powerhouse Wheeling Central.
But despite that loss, the year overall gave head coach Ed Cromley’s team a new sense of confidence.
“Certainly I think the kids believe that they can do it again,” Cromley said. “Every team probably thinks they’re going to go to the state championship, but in the back of their minds they might not think it’s actually possible for their team. But, with these guys having been through that run, they know it is possible and they have a little bit more faith in it.”
Wahama returns plenty of talent from that team a year ago, which outscored its opponents 585-141 – back are eight starters defensively and seven more offensively. Among those offensive-returning starters are four linemen, junior quarterback Trenton Gibbs, senior fullback Anthony Grimm and senior running back Isaac Lee.
Gibbs displayed an extra sense of maturity a year ago, leading the White Falcons to a 13-1 record as only a sophomore.
“Trenton’s pretty sharp and seems to be able to handle two or three things at the same time, which helps with reading routes and coverages,” Cromley said of his quarterback. “He can do a lot of things athletically and now that he’s shown that he can win ballgames for us, I think the kids are going to follow after him even more than they did last year when he was a sophomore.”
Grimm, meanwhile, was listed as a first team all state linebacker in 2010. Offensively, however, he racked up 1,029 yards and 19 touchdowns for the White Falcons on the ground.
“Grimm can get outside too. And we’re going to try and use some of that ability this year,” Cromley said. “He’s a senior and more comfortable inside, but we’re going to try and stretch his package a little bit so he gets outside some too.”
Lee, a second team defensive back selection from 2010, is expected to get the majority of the carries at running back this year for Wahama, following the graduation of his brother, first team all state back Ryan Lee.
“There’s going to be a lot of people keying on him, so he’s going to have to step his game up even more than what he showed last year,” Cromley said. “There also has to be people surrounding him that can take some of that pressure off of him that we can hurt defenses with when they pay too much attention to him.”
Along with Grimm and Lee, sophomore speedster Kane Roush will get some carries out of the backfield as well.
But making the way up front for all of those backs will be a veteran and experienced offensive line.
“We talk to our backs about everybody’s a part of the team and you can’t go anywhere without the linemen,” Cromley said. “It’s 11 guys out there working together to make things happen.”
And leading the way for Wahama along that line is first team all-state center Jamin Branch, who Cromley says is actually one of the more vocal leaders on the team overall.
“It’s a little strange to have an offensive lineman take that leadership role, but he sure does,” Cromley said. “They look to Jamin for leadership and that just trickles right on down to the younger, inexperienced guys.”
The White Falcons overall aren’t the biggest team, but they make up for that lack of size with pure speed and skill.
“We’ve got some people that can do some pretty good things athletically,” Cromley said. “We can get up in the air, jump real well and run fast which are things I think are difficult to overcome defensively.
“Probably a thing we need to work on more is our discipline,” he continued. “Because those folks that are athletic maybe get away with doing some things that are not in the plan. It’ll turn out good one time and then they’ll think they can always do it.”
For the second year in a row, Wahama’s regular season schedule will consist of eight games against teams out of Ohio – the White Falcons play out-of-state in the Tri-Valley Conference, which they won in their inaugural year last season out of the Hocking Division. Cromley said the Ohio-based league gives his team a set schedule each year with games that are much closer for traveling.
“I think consolidation has a lot to do with it,” Cromley said. “We’ve played Single-A schools in Cabell County which consolidated. The Lincoln County schools were also pretty heavy on our schedule with Guyan Valley, Duval and Hamlin – of course they’ve all been consolidated as well. It got to be an issue where to find someone to play, we were making two and three hour trips.”
The two games against teams from West Virginia include the annual, bitter rivalry game with Buffalo to end the regular season and an interesting matchup against Madonna at a neutral site. The game will be played at Fairmont State University on October 21st.
“They’re trying to get high schools to their campus, so that opened up something that we could do,” Cromley said. “So, (Madonna is) traveling a couple of hours and we’re traveling a couple of hours and we get to play an intersectional game.”
Wahama opens up the season on September 2nd in an ever-growing rivalry game against Trimble, Ohio. The White Falcons won last year’s contest 14-6 in what ultimately became the deciding game for the TVC Championship.
Regardless, after coming so close to a state title in 2010, the White Falcons enter 2011 with an energized sense of confidence and determination – ultimately to build off of that run from a year ago and this time, finish it off in the end.
“We had such a good experience last year, it feels really good to be back on the field,” Cromley said. “They enjoyed it so much, and they’ve been real comfortable being back on the field and getting the work done.”