While high school football was in doubt over the last few months with COVID-19 still present throughout the county, the Wharton Tigers will start the season this Friday, Aug. 28 when they go on the road to play the Navasota Rattlers.
This year hasn’t been like previous seasons. Out of precaution, Wharton did not start strength and conditioning until Aug. 3, putting them slightly behind other schools. While Wharton was behind, last week the Tigers caught up to everyone else, scrimmaging the Brazosport Exporters at home.
With the scrimmage under their belts, the Tigers’ journey back to the postseason begins with the Rattlers.
The Rattlers last season went two rounds deep in the playoffs. They started the season 0-4, but finished the year with a 7-1 record. Two years ago, the Rattlers also started the year going winless in their first three games.
Navasota will offer the Tigers a test, that will be a lot like looking at themselves.
“They’ve got some guys that can run and some good skill position guys,” Tigers head coach Chad Butler said. “They’re trying to figure out who’s going to be their quarterback. They’ve got a solid running back and they’ve got guys who can cover and tackle well in the secondary, so it’s a pretty even matchup.”
For the Tigers, the question of who’ll replace graduated quarterback Donovan Krushall who was less than 300 yards from a 2,000 yard passing season has been answered.
Wharton will turn to senior Sterling Harris against Navasota this Friday.
“(Harris) makes good decisions with the ball,” Tigers Head Coach Chad Butler said. “That’s a big deal to have somebody that can see what the defense is doing and (he) understands where his receivers are going to be.”
The new quarterback will lean on a pair of seniors in wide receiver James Jones who led the team in touchdowns and running back Keijon Waddell averaged nearly five yards a carry last season.
The Tigers last season averaged 24.4 points a game. Navasota’s defense last season allowed 17 points a game.
Wharton’s defense has to replace two impact players who graduated and will play junior college football in safety Joerell Davis and linebacker Ja’shawn Nickerson. Davis was also a second-team all-state defensive back with seven interceptions last year.
Butler is optimistic about the defense this season. Along with returners and younger players, more basketball only players have decided to come out and play this season. In their scrimmage against Brazosport, the Tigers’ defense did well.
“They did well. They were scrappy,” Butler said. “We’ve got to shore up some things in the secondary. But for the most part, they flew around and were aggressive, it was a good showing.”
The Tigers defense allowed 23 points a game last year and they’ll see an offense in Navasota Friday that scored 24 points a game.
Wharton outscored Brazosport 3-1 during the scrimmage and if they can roll that performance over to Navasota, they’ll start the season with a win.