Waite seeks to end 51-year championship drought

Waite’s game at Bowsher this Friday will provide the Indians with a challenge that could propel them further along as they look to climb the ranks of the City League. The Rebels (2-4, 1-0 CL), who opened CL play with a 48-18 victory over Woodward, won the conference title last season and finished 8-2 overall, but have struggled this year. Despite their record, Bowsher nearly defeated Maumee and Sylvania Northview, and Waite coach Dan Chipka doesn’t want to look past them.

Chipka’s first victory as a head coach came when his club defeated east side rival, Clay, in thrilling fashion, 28-26, for the Oil Barrel Trophy. The Indians later beat Rogers, 50-20, in the first game of the City League slate to open 1-0 in the conference.

Quarterback Jeremy Pratt led the way, using his dual-threat abilities to run a multi-faceted offense that includes triple-option concepts. Pratt currently leads the CL in two categories, passing (791 yards) and touchdowns (10), and is third in rushing (838). He’s gotten help from running back Nate Houle (349 rushing yards), Anthony Huff (190 receiving yards) and Anthony Ashford (180 receiving yards).

In the win over the Rams, Pratt finished with 169 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, Houle had 122 rushing yards and two scores and Ashford finished with two rushing touchdowns. Houle’s first touchdown came in the second quarter as Waite (2-4, 1-0 CL) rallied from an early deficit, pulling away late.

The win over the Eagles in the annual “River East Bowl” saw the Indians hold Clay as it tried to tie the game late on a two-point conversion attempt. Pratt was a one-man wrecking crew, accounting for 215 of his team’s 314 total yards and two touchdowns, and Houle chipped in, rushing 17 times for 65 yards and two scores.

Chipka says the victory over the Eagles was an emotional turning point.

“It was a magical experience,” he said. “We as a coaching staff have been harping on the kids every day about success, doing the little things right, being process-oriented and looking at every day to make sure we’re doing the things right to become better. I think the players, they needed to see the results and see the victory and taste the victory. When it came together for us against Clay, it was awesome, it was sweetness. A couple kids were crying, a couple members of the community were crying. It was special.”

Chipka, who hails from an Anthony Wayne football family and played collegiately at Bluffton University, credits Pratt for taking the lead and serving as the offense’s catalyst.

“I can’t speak enough about Jeremy’s attitude and leadership, and his production speaks for itself,” Chipka said. “I think Jeremy is going to surprise a lot of people and not only distance himself as the league’s leading passer but also as the league’s leading rusher. With the offense we run, it’s quarterback-driven. It’s predicated on the play of the quarterback, whether it’s run or pass. In the preseason, Jeremy was still learning the offense and still going through those growing pains. He’s grown as a young man and an athlete in leaps and bounds.”

It hasn’t just been Pratt. He’s gotten help from Houle, Ashford and Jermaine Brown, who scored Waite’ first touchdown in the victory over Rogers.

“Houle, Brown and Ashford, those guys are the ones getting the tough yards,” Chipka said. “Especially Nate Houle. The way he’s been able to run, the third-and-one yard, the fourth-and-inches’, the plays we desperately need, Nate’s been delivering. That’s what leads to the success of the offense, and then Jeremy breaks the ensuing play, and people don’t see that when they read the paper. When we ride that guy’s back and Jeremy gives Nate the football, those are some tough yards and he’s able to get. Four yards, six yards, sometimes 12.”

It’s not just the victories that indicate the Indians are headed in the right direction, Chipka says it’s the fight they’ve shown in some of their setbacks. Three of Waite’s losses came to teams currently in playoff content.

Bellevue, which led the Indians by just six points midway through the third quarter before pulling away for a 42-20 victory, was ranked No. 1 in Division IV, Region 12 after six weeks. Dover, which defeated Waite on Sept. 26, was ranked seventh in D-III, Region 9 and Genoa stood ninth in D-IV, Region 12.

“It was a six-point game in the third quarter with Bellevue,” Chipka said. “That’s what I was alluding to — we are getting to the point where we are tasting victory. We have to learn how to close out games. We have to seize the moment.”

And, the 43-19 loss to Northview was just a matter of finishing after some time off. The game was tied at 13 before being delayed due to lightning on Friday night and resuming the following day. Waite came back sluggish, Chipka said.

More than anything, Chipka is hoping his team can learn valuable lessons after playing a tough non-conference schedule that includes teams who are at a level the Indians hope to reach.

“We’ve talked about continuing to play the best in the state of Ohio,” he said. “We needed to find our identity. We were a tough, blue-collar football team that will play hard for four quarters. And the team embraced it.

“After a few tough losses, we had to move in a tough direction, we had to pump the positivity. We told the players, ‘We’ve competed with these teams. We need to become winners and finish it off.’ We wanted to learn how the opposition does the little things right, how they set a tempo and attitude, the managerial things, not so much the Xs and Os. I think it hits home for the kids.

“There’s only one way to get better and that’s through hard work and perseverance through tough times. We know what we were up against and we know that we had to compete at a championship level. I’m so proud of these kids because they’ve bought into what we’re teaching them.”

Waite six-foot, 185 senior quarterback Jeremy Pratt looks for running room in the Indians’ 50-20 victory over Rogers. (Photo courtesy Innovations Portrait Studio/InnovationsVisualImpact.com)

Waite senior back Jermaine Brown follows his blockers in the Indians’ 50-20 victory over Rogers. (Photo courtesy Innovations Portrait Studio/InnovationsVisualImpact.com)

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