WAYNESBURG – Under the watchful eye of head coach Chris Smithley, the Waynesburg University football team has taken a step forward in each of the last two seasons.
Waynesburg went 2-8 in 2017 and 4-6 last season.
This year, the Yellow Jackets are hoping to make a jump, not a step.
The starting quarterback from last year is back, the starting running back from last year is back and the leading wide receiver from last year is back.
That gives this team a lot of hope as it prepares for another difficult season in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
“Being a veteran group always benefits you,” said Smithley. “I don’t want that to take away from our feeling of being one group working together and solving our problems. The most important thing to me is the closeness in the locker room in being a team. But, obviously, it is a good thing to be a veteran group.
“We have some kids coming back, we have to fill some holes on the defense and we lost some key components from last year to graduation. I feel confident we will find the guys we need to step into these new roles and be successful.”
Senior Tyler Perone returns to run the offense at quarterback. He finished last season completing 54 percent of his passes for 1,465 yards. Perone threw only six interceptions in 248 pass attempts but the problem was he threw only six passes that went for touchdowns. Waynesburg is going to need better production if it hopes to contend for a title.
“I want Tyler to be as good as he can be. I think he knows the offense. He’s learned a lot and he’s grown a lot in learning leadership,” Smithley said. “That’s important to me as a former quarterback and a coach of quarterbacks. We talked about that, not just on the field but away from the field, that it’s really important. How are you handling things in the classroom? How are you handling this group of men? He’s grown a ton from the leadership standpoint and that’s a credit to him. He’s put a lot of time into that. I’m looking forward to seeing his progression.”
Chad Walker, a senior, rushed for 767 yards last year and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. But like Perone, Walker wasn’t able to get into the end zone very often, just twice on runs. One of his better games of the season was a 102-yard effort against Washington & Jefferson in the regular-season finale.
“We knew what Chad‘s abilities were when he got here as a freshman,” Smithley said. “We knew that he could have success against any team that lined up against him. I think the biggest adjustment for Chad was the offense. He comes from Maryland, where he played in a wing-T and we don’t. I think it took him some time to adjust to the things in the offense. He could be too fast, if you know what I mean. We’ve worked with Chad to make him understand what the play is supposed to do. If it’s a power run, then yes, we want him to get to the hole. If we’re running an inside zone, we want you to pace yourself and let the play develop.”
Another senior, Nick Moretti, led to team with 47 receptions for 572 yards. But again, Moretti only scored twice on touchdown receptions. Waynesburg’s opponents had 20 touchdown receptions and the Yellow Jackets seven.
“Nick is an outstanding student. He carries a 4.0 GPA and he’s had some opportunities for some really good internships and job opportunities,” Smithley said. “Last year, I think he had that type of season because he was a little older and things started to come to him easier. It started in Week 1 and it wasn’t about him. It was about the team. He was thinking what can I do to help the team. That’s when I started to see the transition for Nick Moretti.”
So it’s important that Waynesburg not only put up better numbers this year but convert the opportunities more often.
“We know as an offense we didn’t score enough points last year,” Smithley said. “We know that if we score more points, we might’ve won two or three more games. We have to score points every time we have an opportunity if we want to win games.”
Waynesburg lost two key defensive players, defensive back Garrett Hepner and linebacker John-Glenn Davis, but return linebacker Tyler Smith, the team’s leading tackler, and All-PAC defensive back Brennan Sefcik, who had two of Waynesburg’s seven interceptions.