VERONA – The Walton-Verona football program ascended from nothing to one that regularly wins a lot of games.
Head coach Jeff Barth takes on the challenge of keeping that momentum as he enters his seventh season at W-V with a 47-23 record, but 45-15 the past five seasons after going 2-8 in his first year, the program’s second varsity season.
The Bearcats were 10-2 last season and won their district with a 4-0 record. Both of those losses were to Newport including an overtime heartbreaker in the second round of the playoffs. `
“We have a very good nucleus of players returning that either started or played quality minutes in rotations last season, along with most likely our best freshman class in school history entering the pipeline,” Barth said.
Barth must replace his two top weapons from last year, running backs Mason Compton and Will Latimore, who combined for more than 2,800 yards on the ground and 42 touchdowns. Latimore scored another seven times through receiving or returns.
The Bearcats will look to reload with their traditionally powerful rushing attack, which averaged more than 300 yards per game last year.
The top returning rusher is senior Halsey Page, who rushed for 609 yards and eight TDs last year while averaging 12 yards per carry. Junior Scott Pettyjohn rushed for 161 yards on 20 carries, and junior Hunter Ruber and senior Jacob Stammer add key depth in the backfield.
Senior Jacob Poore takes over at quarterback for graduate Justin Kline.
All five of those players will be keys on defense, with Ruber, Stammer, Matt Clinkenbeard and Page anchoring the defense at linebacker. Poore and Pettyjohn will play in the secondary.
Clinkenbeard and senior Noah Martin return on the offensive line, and Martin is a returning starter on the defensive front with sophomore Colton Catlett.
Junior Nathan Strunk is the top returning receiver and senior Noah Richardson also returns to start in the secondary after picking off three passes last year. Junior Jeremy Moran returns as kicker after kicking 41 extra points in just seven games.
Walton-Verona hosts Lloyd to open the season Aug. 21. The first district game is Sept. 25 against Carroll County.
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