By many accounts, the 2018 Waynesburg University football season was a success.
The Jackets won four games this year, the same number of wins as the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined.
The pass defense was amongst the top four in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
And perhaps most impressively, all four wins came by a combined 11 points.
“There was more of a drive to win,” said second-year head coach Chris Smithley. “Even the way we finished Saturday [against Washington & Jefferson College]. We were down a bunch, and we played really hard and finished the right way. That’s something that has changed, which is a credit to our seniors.”
Two of those seniors that contributed on the defensive side of the ball include defensive back Justin Willkow and linebacker John-Glen Davis. Willkow was a second-team All-PAC defensive back last year and allowed only one touchdown pass in three years. Davis is a local product from nearby Waynesburg Central High School, who has led the team in several categories over the past two years.
“Those are just two of the six seniors that play defense pretty religiously,” Smithley said. “When you have an older group, [the defense] has more production. [The seniors] have been playing at a high level for the last three or four years, which is something we love to see.”
The offense did not have the same success as the defense, finishing as the penultimate team in both scoring offense and total offense in the PAC. Despite the numbers, there was a big step forward in the eyes of Smithley.
“We’ve continued to improve in the areas we needed to improve,” Smithley. “Chad Walker doesn’t get enough credit for what he brings to the table. Cole Booth is pretty quiet, doesn’t get a ton of credit but he’s pretty special to our offense. The progression of the offensive line has been amazing.”
In addition, quarterback Tyler Perone received a lot of credit for his progression from his first couple of years to now. Perone, who is a senior by credit, has one more year of eligibility and plans on using it in 2019. He was in the top five amongst PAC quarterbacks in many categories, but attributed much of his success to his offensive teammates.
“Offensively, we took a big step forward,” Perone said. “The route running compared to last year was so much better and my understanding of the game has strongly developed. We still have a long way to go, but I’m very excited for the future.”
Smithley agrees that Perone was able to develop through the season.
“I think that [Perone’s] progression is something that we wanted it to be,” Smithley said. “We are pleased with his production and the way he stepped up and handled some tough situations. He had three fourth quarter drives to win us three games. He’s staying calm and collected and he’s the guy we’re going to roll with going forward.”
Despite graduating seniors, there are many players both Perone and Smithley said will be counted on a lot next year.
On the offensive side, Perone mentioned freshman wide receiver Dozhay Crumb and sophomore offensive lineman Shawn Willard as players to contribute. Smithley also has high expectations for the defense. Freshman linebacker Marques Duncan saw a lot of playing time against W&J when John-Glen Davis went down with an injury.
Sophomore Kyle Rhodes is coming back from an injury and classmate Roman Lessard along with freshman Zane Thompson are expected to produce.
Leading tackler Tyler Smith is also coming back to fill out the linebacking corps. He also hopes to get production out of the three returning defensive backs in juniors Brennan Sefick, VaShon Graham and Dan Verhovsek, alongside classmate Ty McEliece.
The Waynesburg football team finished with a 4-6 record, 4-5 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.