VERONA – Typical of small schools, the Walton-Verona High School football team doesn’t have a lot of depth.
Talent and experience are in big supply for the Bearcats, who were 9-3 last year and 37-21 overall for head coach Jeff Barth. W-V lost to Newport Central Catholic 36-0 in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
“The big thing with everybody is to stay healthy and eligible and make sure we’re able to achieve things,” Barth said. “We can achieve some big things this year but we have to stay focused.”
Most crucially, the Bearcats are strong and experienced in the trenches, which excites the head coach.
“I love the fact we have four out of five offensive linemen back and the one who’s not is a sharp young man who is picking things up well,” Barth said. “Any time you have question marks up front you’re going to have question marks throughout the season. If you can go into a season firm up front, the rest takes care of itself.”
The offensive line returns four starters, which will be key for consistency this season. David Carr, Joey Coomer and Danny Martin are seniors returning up front with junior Noah Martin.
The defense returns seven starters from last year and are led by three returning senior linemen in Carr, Coomer and Cody Catlett. Carr had 58 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Catlett had 53 tackles.
Senior Mason Compton and sophomore Hunter Ruber return at linebacker, and senior Ryan Martin and junior Noah
Richardson come back as starters in the secondary. Ruber posted 57 tackles.
“As a small school, we may not have a ton of guys. But we’ve got some really good players, and there are more backs behind us,” said Compton.
Compton was a workhorse last season from the backfield, rushing for 1,155 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior Justin Kline returns under center after throwing for 1,061 yards and 12 TDs in 2013, both school records.
Chris Latimore’s explosiveness and big-play ability left with his graduation, but brother Will Latimore has the same potential and returns to the lineup for his senior year. He had 542 yards total offense last year with five TDs after a big 2012.
Compton and Latimore are set to share backfield duties with their “thunder-and-lightning” approach. The big, physical Compton and speedy Latimore can both chase W-V rushing records this season if they stay healthy.
“It’s a 1-2 punch,” Barth said. “They’ve both had huge years. Latimore had a huge sophomore year, but last year was a disappointment. Compton stepped in and had a huge junior year. Now, they’re both seniors. Latimore is a changed guy, and Compton’s still Compton. We don’t want teams coming in and saying they’re going to stop Compton or they’re going to stop Latimore. They’ll have to stop both, the whole game. And we’ve got one to keep the other fresh without losing anything.”
No matter what those backs do, Barth knows the Bearcats won’t be successful without a well-rounded and healthy team around them.
“We have to work on our depth,” he said. “We play a game where people are going to get injured. We need to have capable backups at those positions. It’s tough to know what you have until you get that first scrimmage in (Aug. 15 against Henry County). Basketball, you get a lot of scrimmages and AAU games, football you get one scrimmage. “
W-V hosts Bellevue Aug. 22 to start the season and will have Homecoming Sept. 5. W-V was 3-1 in the district last year, good for second place.
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