MASON-Veteran Wahama head coach Ed Cromley understood that his No. 3 ranked White Falcons (12-0) would be good this year. That was expected with at least two players-seniors Anthony Grimm and Jamin Branch - who were returning first team Class A all state performers from last year's state runnerup squad.
But, two players do not make a team so Wahama's success, or failure would depend upon the remaining 40 or more players that would make up this season's squad.
"It (having returning all-staters) doesn't mean you are automatically going to return to the state championship game," said Cromley. "But, it does mean you that you should be in the hunt for the playoffs."
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Wahama’s Anthony Grimm has carried the football 150 times for 1,317 yards and 28 touchdowns.
And hunting the White Falcons went a season after reaching the Class A championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium against perennial state champion Wheeling Central - a game the Maroon Knights won by a 28-14 margin.
"Getting to that game is important because it tells your kids that hard work and dedication can pay off," Cromley said. "Now, we want to not only get back to that game, but win it."
To accomplish that feat, however, the White Falcons must get past another perennial playoff power in No. 2 Williamstown (12-0). Wahama travels to Williamstown at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a Class A semifinal game and a berth in the Super Six.
"They (Williamstown) have been very good for a long time,'' Cromley said. "Coach (Terry) Smith does things the right way and it shows in the success he and his team have had over the years."
A huge part of that success occurred because of the Yellowjackets' ability to control the clock with a solid running game and a stingy defense that has made a living by stopping the opposition's running attack.
That is where Grimm and Branch come in.
"I don't believe there is a harder runner to bring down than Anthony," said Cromley. "He has that unique combination of power and speed that makes him a threat to score every time he touches the football."
Words that are backed up by the senior's numbers this season. Grimm has carried the football 150 times for 1,317 yards and 28 touchdowns. His counterpart-Trey King of Williamstown-has rushed for 1,557 yards and 22 touchdowns, but on 204 totes of the pigskin.
Teams paying too much attention to Grimm quickly will discover the White Falcons have a deep stable of running backs that include six other players averaging 8 yards or more every time they touch the football.
Among that group are Kane Roush (61-612, 8 TDs), Isaac Lee (66-566, 7 TDs), Zack Wamsley (27-361, 4 TDs), Crandale Neal (23-264, 5 TDs), J.R. Jewell (8-201, 2 TDs) and Colton Neal (6-145, 2 TDs).
"We've had success running the football, but they will tell you that is because we have some very talented athletes blocking for them," said Cromley.
One of those is Branch.
The 5-foot, 11-inch, 280-pounder anchors the White Falcon front from his center position and is the player most responsible for calling out the blocking assignments of the other four linemen.
"He (Branch) has really become a leader this season,'' Cromley said. "He has always had the physical talent, but now he also has the mental focus. That mental focus has made him a leader on the line and he does a great job of calling out our blocking assignments and making sure the younger guys understand what they need to do."
Two players may not make a team, but two players like Grimm and Branch can help mold a team into a champion.
Coming Thursday: A look at Williamstown.