Catching Up With Coach Ryan Keeton
The Nanih Waiya Warriors are off to an impressive start in 2017. The Warriors are currently 8-0 overall and 5-0 in region play. With an important region game at Vardaman looming on the horizon, Nanih Waiya Head Coach Ryan Keeton has had his players focused on the task at hand. SES recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Coach Keeton and get his thoughts on the 2017 season and his Warriors’ upcoming game with the Rams.
SES: So let’s start with this. You guys are undefeated and are regarded to be one of the best teams in 1A again this year. How have you been so successful so far?
Keeton: We have a great group of seniors. Most of them have been two-way starters since their sophomore year. They understand what it takes to be successful and push our underclassmen to improve each and every day.
SES: Speaking of seniors, let’s talk about some of them. I first want to ask you about Taemaus Glass and Chris Smith. Together, they have 31 rushing touchdowns on the year and over 1,000 rushing yards. How important are they to your team’s success, and what all do they bring to the table?
Keeton: Both are great players and bring a similar skillset to the table. We move Chris around a lot on offense. He has lined up at every position except the offensive line. He’s a very sharp kid, and that allows us to be very versatile offensively. He draws a lot of attention from defenses, so it opens up things for other players. Taemaus gets tabbed as being more of the power back of the two, but I don’t think people understand how fast he his and also that Chris is a powerful runner as well. Taemaus catches the ball well out of the backfield and is a punishing back to try to tackle. Both are critical to the success of our team, and luckily, we’ve been able to keep their touches down so far so that they’ll be fresh come playoff time. The two of them combined probably don’t have as many carries as most teams’ starting running back.
SES: Talk now about your quarterback Bryce Stanton. How important has he been to your success?
Keeton: We lost a guy who had been a three-year starter [Ben Cumberland] to graduation, so everyone outside our program assumed there would be a drop-off. They didn’t know what we knew about Bryce. One of the toughest competitors I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach. He’s a true dual-threat guy. He can stretch the field vertically with his arm and is a hard-nosed runner with good speed. We don’t get to throw the ball a lot, so his completion percentage is kind of low for a guy of his skillset, but if he was in a system that allowed him to drop back and throw it 30 times a game, he would thrive just as much as he does in ours.
SES: Awesome. Now you've been at Nanih Waiya how long? And what other jobs have you had before this one?
Keeton: This is my third season. I was at Pelahatchie and Bruce most recently.
SES: That's what I thought. So you're relatively familiar with Vardaman then. I'm not sure if Vardaman and Bruce were playing regularly when you were with the Trojans, but does your time at Bruce help you in any way with the preparation for this week's game?
Keeton: We played Vardaman while I was at Bruce. Had some good battles, but it's been so long ago I don't think it really helps any. Different coach and different kids. The only thing I would say is, I understand the winning tradition at Vardaman and know it can be a tough place to play, so we've tried to get our guys to understand it will be a dog fight. Coach Gann has done a great job getting them headed back in the right direction.
SES: Cool. So, what's your favorite game you've coached since you've been at Nanih Waiya and why?
Keeton: That's a tough one. Beating Noxapater my first year felt really good, but I'd probably have to say last year's south state championship game vs. Lumberton would be the most memorable at this point. I didn't enjoy the outcome, but the game itself was unbelievable. The atmosphere was great, and it was just a back and forth battle between two good teams. I've had many people who weren't affiliated with either team say it was the best high school football game they've ever seen.
SES: I can agree. It was insane. So, let's shift back to the Vardaman game. They have some talented playmakers on offense. What's it going to take to make sure they are bottled-up on Friday night?
Keeton: They are very talented at the skill positions. Coach Gann does a good job of using multiple formations, shifts and motions that really stress the leverage and discipline of a secondary. For us, it's about being mentally engaged every play and communicating well. If we have any screw-ups in those aspects, Vardaman has several guys that will put it in the end zone.
Nanih Waiya kicks off against Vardaman tonight at 7 p.m.