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Weaving a Webb state crown
Making Mr. Football miserable, Blance duo, clutch passes add up to Division II-A state title

COOKEVILLE — Clutch first-half passing from Parker Wormsley and the rugged second-half running of Caleb Blance, plus a Spartans defense smothering University School of Jackson’s powerful passing game, added up to gold in dominant fashion.

A TSSAA Division II-A state championship was the result, a 30-0 Webb whitewash in the title game at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium Thursday evening, Dec. 3.

Webb ends as champion with a 12-1 record, making four state titles in the program’s history — three for head coach Dave Meske, who just finished his 25th season as Spartans boss. The Bruins finish 11-2.

“It just came down to making plays,” said Meske, whose Spartans outgained USJ 409-222 in total yards.

Wormsley’s 20-yard TD pass to David Wilhoite got things going early, then Clark Johnson’s 8-yard leaping touchdown catch over a defender, a few plays after Michael Carillon’s 37-yard grab in similar fashion, made it 14-0 with just two seconds left in the first half.

“The first drive we were running the ball down the field on them, and we threw some pass plays at them just to keep them honest,” said Wormsley, a junior who finished 7-of-10 passing for 117 yards and the two TDs. “They came out and stacked the box on us, so the pass plays were big plays for us.”

Wormsley added Wilhoite has been “playing well all year.”

Johnson helped set up his TD grab with another leaping “take-away” theft of a Wormsley lob, this one for 24 yards.

“Clark Johnson’s a great receiver, and he’s a tall guy that can jump,” Meske said of the 6-foot-1, 178-pound senior.

Wormsley added, “Michael and Clark are both great athletes. Both play multiple sports, so we were expecting them to make plays for us. With the conditions out there being wet and cold, you couldn't really get a good grip on the ball.

“But I knew if I could get it out there to where they could make a play, they were going to come down with it.”

Praising his team’s balance of pass-run effectiveness out of his basic run-oriented wing-T attack, Meske said, “Parker’s thrown for about 1,400 yards this year, and it’s really balanced our offense. And it’s opened up a lot of things, and it means we’ve had a lot of success.”

Wilhoite added a key 12-yard reception prior to Johnson’s scoring grab.

On the ground, Blance, Webb standout sophomore running back, added 192 yards rushing — 152 in the second half — to earn Offensive MVP honors.

Meanwhile, the Spartans’ secondary of Johnson, Carillon, Justin Alexander and Bryan Berube, plus junior defensive lineman Hunter Little’s pass rush and early-game tackling, wreaked havoc with USJ’S Division II-A Mr. Football honoree Jake Overbey.

The Bruins junior managed just 150 yards passing — only 10 completions in 25 attempts and two interceptions.

Spartans freshman Berube, with an interception ending a USJ drive, was named Defensive MVP.

“We have a very strong secondary, and they have a great passing game, and we made the plays when we had to make the plays,” Meske said. “And their quarterback is so good we had to make sure he moved around a little bit, and we were able to do that.”

Little joined senior linebacker Tré Waters and senior defensive end Donovan Whiteside with six total tackles each for the Spartans.

“We knew how fast he was, and we knew how good he was, especially winning Mr. Football and all of that,” Little said. “We knew what we were going up against. ... We knew what he was going to do, we knew all their plays, all their formations. Our goal was never to make him comfortable, because when he's comfortable he gets good.”

Whiteside’s end-zone hit on Overbey earned Webb a safety, making it 23-0 in the second half, when he forced the junior standout quarterback into a grounding call (automatic safety).

“Just getting an even pass rush,” Little said of another specific key. “Not just the ends, not just me and Donovan Whiteside, but Jake Saas and Jake Werner, our two inside guys, getting an even pass rush, putting pressure on Overbey from all sides. And I love our secondary,” Little added.

As a defensive line, “We knew we had to step up to the plate ... I think we met that challenge and overcame it,” Little said.

Alexander added four tackles and, along with Carillon, Berube and Johnson, had key pass breakups. Carillon added a 16-yard punt return.

Blance’s tough inside running was the main force of Webb’s final 24 minutes of offense.

“Caleb’s been hurt most of the year, and the last two games he’s really come on, and he’s running like he did last year,” Meske said about his sophomore standout.

Blance said, “First of all, the line stepped up, opened up the holes and the only thing I had to do was run through them.”

Along the Spartans O-line were Werner, a junior, at center; Saas, a senior, and junior Patrick Daley at tackles, and guards Luke Letsinger (senior) and Tyler Harrison (sophomore).

“And our offensive line, actually, when we had the bye week [Nov. 6] we had to get a little better there, and we did, and that really changed things,” Meske said. “In the last two games we played great.”

Caleb’s little brother, freshman Aaron Blance, made it 21-0 on a 5-yard TD run with 7:31 left in the third quarter.

The younger Blance, complementing his older brother with mostly speed runs to the outside, ran for 90 yards on 13 carries.

“My brother last year came up and was All-state -— I had some big shoes to fill as a freshman,” Aaron said. “Coach just told me to keep my composure ... and I'd be alright.”

Aaron Blance’s 32-yard TD interception return with 1:08 left in the game sealed the final scored.

"I just saw the ball in the air, and I thought it was my opportunity to go get it and score,” Aaron Blance said.

Webb kicker Neel Martin was a perfect 4-of-4 on extra points.

One vital element helping Webb mature late in the season versus where it was in summer workouts and scrimmages was the development of its offensive and defensive lines — both hit hard by graduation.

“The offensive line and the defensive line came farther than any other group on our football team,” Meske said. “Those were the two concerns we had. They both developed.

“Our defensive line came on fast, a lot faster than I thought it would,” he added.

Little summed it all up: “The great thing about Webb, it's not an individual. We're all athletes together, so if we all have confidence in each other, I know we all can get it done.”


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