Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Before last season, Derrick Lattimore wasn’t a known name throughout the Southern Ohio Conference.
But when he got the chance to make his mark, he took full advantage of the opportunity.
Now, if you don’t know his name, you’re either not paying attention or you’re living under a rock. The hard-churning running back became an imperative part to Wheelersburg’s offensive game plans as a sophomore, helping the Pirates finish 7-2 overall.
Lattimore rushed for 784 yards and eight touchdowns on just 95 carries — an average of 8.25 yards per. And this fall, he’s looking for those numbers to rise after a work-filled offseason.
Just before the Pirates meet with Ironton in an always highly anticipated Week 1 matchup, we caught up with Lattimore to discuss what it’s like playing in a success-filled program, what he expects to accomplish during his junior year and much more.
Question: You emerged as a bonafide threat last season. What was the key to that emergence and what do you feel like you did well?
Lattimore: I think what was key was my teammates, friends, family, and coaches believing in me and my ability to influence or change the game. Some things that I think I did well on were sticking my cleats down on the turf, breaking tackles and making defenders miss.
Q: A year later, what do you feel like you’ve improved upon most? What will we see that’s different from you this fall?
DL: I believe that some of the differences you will notice is my improved blocking, physical toughness and conditioning. During the offseason, I worked really hard on the field and in the weight room in order to elevate my game and become one of the best, or the best back, in the SOC.
Q: Wheelersburg is always Wheelersburg. It’s a pipeline of football success. Tell me what it’s like playing in a program like yours.
DL: It’s truly special playing in an established football program such as Wheelersburg. They care about each and everyone’s individual and personal success, and the coaches do a really good job connecting with the players. They get each player’s best effort so we can win games
Q: Can you talk about how your offense has changed this year and how explosive you think your team may be?
DL: I think our offense has changed a lot because we lost a lot of really talented seniors. But we have some young guys that have really shown promise in practice and have proven themselves to the upperclassmen. So I think our offense will be pretty explosive and I think we will surprise people because some say we look small or are small up front. But I think we can prove them wrong by doing the little things correctly and winning our individual one-on-one battles.
Q: What’s it like to play for coach Rob Woodward?
DL: Honestly it’s amazing to play for a coach like coach Woodward. He requires everyone’s best effort and positive attitude. He’s, overall, just a positive role model and influence for the team and inspires us to be the best version of ourselves. He wants us to “count on me,” which is our team’s mantra. It basically means to depend on someone to do what you want or expect them to do for you. For example, going hard on the scout team to give the starting defense or offense a good look so that they can be well prepared to face our opponent on Friday night.
Q: For the first time in a long time, the Pirates weren’t the SOC champions last season. How much motivation does that give you for this year?
DL: It gives us a ton of motivation and drive to win the SOC. A lot of people are unsure how we will fare this season because we have a pretty challenging schedule
Q: Overall expectations this fall? Individually and in a team sense?
DL: We want to win the SOC and get as far as we can in the playoffs, and hopefully a ring. We feel like we have the tools to do that and think that we can make a huge run in the playoffs.