Walton-Verona senior running back Halsey Page has waited his turn. Despite rushing for nearly 12 yards per carry last season, he saw limited carries as the third option in the Bearcats’ backfield behind the school’s all-time leading rusher Mason Compton and his sidekick William Latimore, a duo that combined for 2,816 yards.
Now, Page is anxious to make his mark on Walton-Verona’s football program and continue the run of dominant rushers that have thrived in head coach Jeff Barth’s run-heavy hybrid Wing-T offense.
“It’s everything to me,” Page said. “It’s what I’ve been trained to do. Coming up behind (Compton and Latimore), I’ve seen what they can do and I want to at least match that if not do better. We lost a lot of size, but I believe in our line and I think we can do big things this year.”
Barth calls Page “a great combination of speed and power,” and added that he enjoys contact.
“In my mind when I’m out there, I just think try to get 10 yards every carry,” Page said. “I try to hit the hole as quick as I can and stay balanced. I love running up the middle.”
“We expect big things out of Halsey this year,” said Barth. “He’s about 190-pounds and has played every year for us. He earned a starting spot and earned carries in a really talented backfield last year.”
After suffering through a 2-8 season in 2009, Barth’s first year as head coach and the second season of the program’s existence, Walton-Verona has recorded eight or more wins in every season since – including 10 in two of the last three seasons. And the Bearcats have done so by running the ball almost exclusively.
Barth is quick to point out that his system has had success because of the great players that have played for him. However, his players also note that his style of play-calling, where he consistently mixes up the runs and spreads the ball around, helps get the most out of the team’s talent.
“He tries to spread it out as much as he can,” Page said. “He doesn’t just rely on one person, because we have plenty of other guys that can make plays. Last year, we would bounce it out to Will and then run it up the middle with Mason. It’s not just one guy all the time. We switch it up a lot, and that’s what throws off the defense I think.”
Page will be the featured back in this year’s attack, but he’s expecting to get some help to keep the defense guessing.
“My buddy Scott Pettyjohn is a little bit smaller than me, but he has the quick feet and the moves,” Page said. “And we have a freshman named Micah Alford that we call ‘Little Bulldog’ because he’s just a little brute. He ran the middle school football team. He was their stud. We have a lot of young guys with a lot of talent, plenty of potential.”
Barth added that senior Jared Poore, who is making the switch from wide receiver to quarterback, will add another dimension to the Bearcats’ rushing attack.
“Jared played receiver last year, but he has experience as a quarterback on the JV level his freshman and sophomore years,” Barth said. “He’s a very good athlete and will do a good job running the offense this year.”
Any offense is heavily reliant upon the big men getting the job done at the line of scrimmage, but good offensive line play is especially crucial with a rushing attack like Walton-Verona’s. Anchored by senior guard Matt Clinkenbeard, senior center Noah Martin and junior tackle Ethan Quatkemeyer, who all return after starting last year, Page expects the Bearcats’ offensive line to be a strength of this year’s team.
“Our offensive line is young, but I’m telling you, they are tough,” Page said. “They’re all aggressive. They don’t have the size, but I know they have the technique and mindset to beat anyone in front of them.”