By Austin Bishop
Winston County Journal
One of the best parts about the first game of the football season is you get to clearly see what you need to work on for the second game.
First-year Nanih Waiya head coach Ryan Keeton said his defense played better than even he had expected in the Warriors’ 14-12 season opening loss to Union last Friday, but said his team needed to make dramatic improvement along the offensive line and on special teams headed into Friday’s road contest at Clarkdale.
“We have got to get better up front,” Keeton said. “We are going to see the same style of defense (out of Clarkdale) that Union plays. we just have to get better on the offensive line.”
While quarterback Ben Cumberland was 4-of-13 passing for seven yards in the game, Keeton said those numbers should have been much better.
“We had three or four drops where the ball was right there,” Keeton said. “If we could have just scored one offensive touchdown we would more than likely have won the game.”
Both of Nanih Waiya’s touchdowns against UHS came on big plays by Chris Smith.
Union built an 8-0 lead thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion by Tradarius Harris. The touchdown was set up when NW lost a fumble at its own 25-yard line on just the second play of the game.
“The defense really played amazing,” Keeton said. “They (Union) had the ball inside our 50 most of the night and we just kept making play after play.”
Nanih Waiya’s first touchdown of the night came as the Yellowjackets were trying to add more points to the board late in the first half.
“They were in a two-minute mode and he (Smith) just came off his receiver and stepped in front of the pass,” Keeton said. “He broke two or three tackles on the return for a touchdown.”
Smith put the Warriors up 12-8 in the third quarter when he returned a punt 51 yards for a score.
“We obviously see how talented Chris is with the ball in his hands, we just have to figure a way to get it to him on offense,” Keeton said.
Union’s last points of the night came on a drive that concluded early in the fourth quarter when Harris scored on a 5-yard run. Harris finished the night with 112 rushing yards on 29 carries.
Smith led Nanih Waiya with 36 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Garrett Miles had two catches and Taemus Glass and Smith had one each.
Brady Jones led the NW defense with 9.5 tackles and a fumble recovery, while Bryce Stanton had seven tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break up and Deon McClendon recorded 6.5 tackles included two tackles for a loss. Glass had six tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack for the Warriors, with Isaiah Eiland recording 5.5 tackles and an interception.
This week’s foe Clarkdale is 1-0 on the season after defeating Stinger 19-12 last week. On Sept. 4 Nanih Waiya returns home to take on Lake in another non-division contest against a Class 2A opponent.