WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) _ Wayne County High School senior Christopher Walley doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
But Walley said he’s going to be intolerably disappointed if he and his War Eagle teammates are not in the hunt for a Class 5A state football championship come the holiday season.
“The goal is to get to the end and win it all, but we've got to take it game by game,” Walley said. “We've got a bunch of new freshmen but they're getting down to business. We've got a team this year. I think we can do it all."
Second-year coach Shelton Gandy said how far the War Eagles can fly will depend much on the play and leadership of the War Eagles’ 23 seniors.
"We got 23 seniors, and I always tell them, we're only going to be as good as you guys are,” Gandy said. “When you talk about culture and championship culture, culture to me is, good or bad, (the younger guys), they're going to act the way you [the seniors] act. So, if you come in and you don't take it serious, don't expect the young guys to take it serious.
“You've got from here til the second week of November, those are the games that are promised. If it's special, we'll have the opportunity to play Thanksgiving weekend. We don't get ahead of ourselves, we just take it one game at a time. No doubt, if we're going to be there it's going to all ride on these seniors we got."
Walley is taking his final go-round very seriously.
"It's bittersweet, (my) last year,” Walley said. “But gotta go out with a bang.”
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Walley, who was selected Wayne County’s “Player of the Pine Belt,” take up a starting position in the War Eagles’ defense for a third consecutive season.
But instead of returning to his slot along the defensive line, Walley will be taking his formidable self to roam the interior of Wayne County’s defense.
"My role is whatever coach tells me it is, and then it’s up to me to go execute it 100 percent,” Walley said. “If he tells me to run a 100-yard sprint, I run a 100-yard sprint to the fullest.
“But [I] transitioned from defensive line. They needed a big body so I was next in line for that, filling that next gap. If it ever gets split, I'm the one to clean it up.
“It's just like the quarterback of the defense, I have to know where everything is, how to work the mechanics of the defense."
Gandy said it is calming to have the likes of Walley lurking at linebacker.
"Having Chris over there as one of our leaders, his intensity, he’s just done a tremendous job. He's a quiet guy, he leads by example. But he's going to be the first guy in the weight room, going to be the first guy on the field and I think he takes a lot of pride in showing those young guys how to work."
"His intensity, the way he plays, he commands that respect on defense. He's got to be the leader and get everybody lined up so we can be sound on defense."
Walley said while he hopes to have an impact on the War Eagles’ success, he knows that it will take a team effort to get Wayne County where it wants to go.
"[To win state] it's going to take family,” Walley said. “It starts in the weight room, it starts in the locker room, gotta build a bond with each other.
“One person can’t win the game, gotta be all eleven."