’Jackets return solid core

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a summer-long series looking at Mid-Ohio Valley high school football teams. Today’s featured team is the Williamstown Yellowjackets.

WILLIAMSTOWN -Ability completely outweighs experience when convincing Williamstown football coach Terry Smith who earns a starting role.

“You just try and put in your best that you can,” said Smith, who begins his 11th season at the helm of the Yellowjacket program. “I don’t really ask what grade they are in.”

Williamstown returns several key players from a squad that finished 10-3 and advanced to the semifinals of the Class A state playoffs. During summer workouts, Dakota Watson is going through a refresher course at quarterback after spending the past two seasons at tailback. He will be taking snaps from second-team all-stater D.J. Kerns.

“With Dakota, he’s played quarterback his whole life,” Smith said. “He’s a really good athlete. He is the starting point guard in basketball and batted third in the lineup in baseball. He’s been there, so he understands.”

Watson won’t lack for solid receivers with the return of wide receivers Logan Lindsey and Hunter Neely, along with tight end Trevor Hoosier. Last year against Ritchie County, Neely set a school record with eight receptions in one game and finished the season with 34 catches for 433 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Hunter should have been an all-stater – he didn’t even make all-conference,” Smith said. “He is a tremendous player. He works hard and knows where to be. He really hustles.”

Joining Watson in the backfield are tailback Austin Raines and fullback Michael Beck.

“The first week of drills, I don’t think Raines nor Beck ran real fast or real hard – we almost had to run every play twice,” Smith said. “The following week, they looked like they knew what they were doing, so they looked a little faster.”

The projected offensive line consists of Jake Seckman at left tackle, C.J. West at left guard, Kerns at center, Bryce Mefford at right guard and Brenden Jefferson at right tackle.

“Size-wise, we are a little bigger than we were last year,” Smith said. “Kern’s experience will help as far as what the offensive line has to do.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Kerns, Seckman and Jefferson will rotate at the two defensive end positions. Mefford moved from linebacker to defensive end, while Hoosier figures to become a full-time starter at the defensive end spot opposite of Mefford.

Michael Beck will be joined at inside linebacker by Trenton Wise, who played primarily special teams a year ago. At outside linebacker, Watson returns after earning second-team all-state honors. Lindsey also will line up at outside linebacker.

In the defensive backfield, Neely and Raines will line up at corner, while Blake Eddy is looking to secure the safety position.

“My first impression is that our defense is way ahead of our offense,” Smith said. “But it’s always like that.”

On special teams, Watson will handle the punting duties. Competing week-to-week for starting placekicker for the second year in a row are Kade Kiselica and Trace Elder, who was second-team all-state.

“Trace won most of the competitions last year, but Kade did kick the game-winner against Magnolia,” Smith said.

Smith surpassed a coaching milestone last year when the Yellowjackets defeated Magnolia 15-14 for his 100th career victory.

“What I like is seeing guys I had as ball boys like Blake Eddy and Dakota Watson,” Smith said. “It’s fun seeing those young kids.”

Williamstown’s preseason scrimmages take place Aug. 16 against Belpre and Caldwell, and again on Aug. 22 when it hosts Wahama at 7 p.m.