Waynesville welcomes in a new head coach in Joe Haynes. He will be tasked with turning around a Tigers program that has lost 21 consecutive games.
The turnaround will start with a culture change in the program.
“Right now it is (learning) the mindset of what it takes to be successful, how hard you have to work and getting our kids to buy into doing the little things the right way all the time,” Haynes said. “We are going to work hard in practice. We are going to put in the time necessary to get where we want to be.”
The Tigers return three total starters with two on offense and one on defense.
Leading the offensive attack will be junior running back Sheen Butler-Lawson, He rushed for 1,087 yards and 11 touchdowns last season along with 17 catches for 216 yards.
“There is no doubt about it, he is one of our ‘it’ factor players,” Haynes said. “He is a true leader on the field as well off the field. I do believe he is a leader on our team right now and I know he understands that. He is a leader because people will follow him.”
Senior offensive lineman Timothy Brech is Waynesville’s other returning starter on offense. Fellow senior Max Reyes will join him on the offensive line.
The Tigers will run a pro spread offense. Haynes has a strong quarterback competition developing with several players potentially being able to slot in as the starting signal caller.
Desmond Dawkins and Michael Cassidy will be two key receivers to watch of offense. Both could also see time on defense at defensive back.
Maleek Hopper will be the leader of the secondary as Waynesville introduces a 4-2-5 defense. He had 43 total tackles last season along with three forced fumbles. His leadership will be key to Waynesville’s success this season.
“Maleek is going to play an intricate role because at that position he is the quarterback of the back half of the defense,” Haynes said. “We are going to run a 4-2-5 defense. One thing you have to have at that (strong safety) position is a vocal leader and a guy who understands how to make checks and make things happen back there.”
Junior Kevin Poinsette will look to be shutdown corner for the Waynesville secondary after seeing limited snaps on varsity as a sophomore.
“He (Poinsette) is the ultimate competitor at the defensive back position. He is a guy that wants to line up against (the other team’s) No. 1 (wide receiver),” Haynes said. “His (attitude) is just leave me on an island with that guy and let me harass him for four quarters.”
Dalton Cleaver is a newcomer to Waynesville, but he will see time at linebacker right away.
The Waynesville defense will have to be adaptable to compete in the Ozark Conference and its diverse types of offenses.
“Our defense is very flexible and there are a lot of simple adjustments that we make according to the (opposing) lineups and offensive formations,” Haynes said. “That right there I think is going to put us in a better position than what we have had in the past.”
The big goal for Waynesville this season is to set a foundation around which Haynes can build the program back up.
“I want these seniors to taste what if feels like to win and make the playoffs with a victory in the first round,” Haynes said. “I want us to earn the right to be there (in the playoffs). (I want) these guys to grow together and become one solid family and a brotherhood. That will go far beyond what are wins and losses are because it will set up our future for what we have coming up throughout the program.”
Waynesville opens the season on Aug. 24 at home against Camdenton.