Central Ohio Technical College banner ad

Generals look to rebound from .500 season

| August 19, 2014

RHS-FBL_TeamWEST LAFAYETTE – The Ridgewood High School football team found itself in unfamiliar territory during week 11 of the 2013 season: They were spectators.

Having built a program whose expectations year in and year out are to be competing in the postseason playoffs, it did not happen for the Generals last year and head coach John Slusser is trying to put the pieces to the puzzle back together.

However, the task at hand is not going to be an easy one.

Ridgewood returns just one starter on defense from last year’s 5-5 squad and faces the potential prospect of filling numerous positions with inexperienced underclassmen.

“I didn’t realize until a recent interview that we only have one returning starter on defense,” Slusser said. “I cannot remember that ever being the case. We rotated a lot of people but as far as pure week-to-week starters, having only one kid back is unbelievable.”

Junior Brice Hammond is the lone returnee, having started at one of the linebacker spots.

“It’s a huge concern,” Slusser said. “The problem is we will probably have eight sophomores playing most of the time and that’s not really a good thing.

“They are a good group and I think they’ll be fine if they all stick together but the thing is when you play against seniors as a sophomore, especially in the trenches, maturity and strength really matters and we’re going to be giving away a little bit in there. We’re relying on a lot of them early to get in and get their feet wet.”

While there are 13 seniors, only six juniors are on this year’s roster. In that sophomore class, there are 16 with the balance of the 48-man roster being freshmen.

Potential starters for the Generals as they try to resurrect the Silver Hammer Defense will be seniors Dylan Shepler and Thor Reed and sophomores Kyle Bethel and Kevin Bethel battling with Hammond for the three linebackers positions. Reed did see some action last year.

Also finding themselves in the mix are senior Logan Slusser, sophomores Javon Merrill and Zach Wright, and freshmen Ian Schwab, Nick Morton, Tyler Caudy and Logan Shroyer.

In the defensive backfield, candidates at safety are senior Matt Saylor and Jon Barker, junior Billy Bailey and sophomore Trent Harrison, who saw significant action a year ago. Cornerbacks will be seniors Zach Donley and Caleb Tingle, junior Cole Lillibridge and sophomore Jhett Slusser. Bailey did not start but played regularly last year.

Shepler and Barker are student-athletes who transferred from River View while Tingle came into the district from Cambridge.

Also seeking action at safety are freshmen Kolton Alexander and Dom McClung while at cornerback it will be sophomore Michael Kelley trying to crack the rotation.

In the ever-important trenches, seniors Matt Leitz and Ben Hostetler and sophomores Rayven Davidson, Keith Leindecker, Kasey Bethel and Nathaniel Thompson are all hoping to be in the rotation at defensive end. Others vying for playing time are freshmen Seth Schwab and Dalton Banks.

The tackles will be decided among seniors Kelly Barthalow, Blake Lee, Trevor Fuller, and Blake Feldner, and the sophomores Thompson and Leindecker. Depth will come from juniors Chancy Johnston, Cory Shaw, Dustin Carr sophomores Bryce Haines, Blake Hamilton, Caleb Bowman, Abram Buckler and Kaden Edie, and freshmen Jayce Cabot and Josh Hixon.

Offensively, Tingle will be the starter at quarterback after lettering three straight years at Cambridge. He will be backed up by Jhett Slusser.

Donley and Bailey will be at running back while Harrison, Barker, Shepler, Davidson, Logan Slusser and Hammond all hope to rotate at wide receiver.

Providing depth at running back will be Lillibridge, Kevin Bethel and McClung while other wide outs are Saylor, junior Jarrett Art, Lee, Merrill, Kelley, Wright, Jarret Slusser, Caudy, Morton and Kyle Bethel,

A state-qualifier in wrestling, Barthalow will start at center with Hostetler, Leitz, Reed and Thompson all seeing action at guard while Fuller and Feldner will be the starters at tackle.

Backup linemen are Johnston, Haines, Seth Schwab, Kasey Bethel, Hamilton, Carr, Shaw, Ian Schwab, Buckler, Hixon, Bowman, Cabot, Banks and Edie.

Handling the punting will be Art while Tingle will kick field goals and point-after attempts. Donley will the kick-off man. Jhett Slusser will be the holder and Leindecker the long-snapper.

“We have some transfer kids who started before with the River View kids Barker and Shepler and Tingle at quarterback has made a big difference offensively,” Coach Slusser said. “He looks like a really nice player but we really haven’t had an opportunity to see him play yet. Our skill level is pretty good and we’re pretty fast. We have some kids who can run. That’s not a problem with this team. We’re still really searching and trying to find some people to play in the trenches. I just don’t feel like were very strong there yet. What we do have is competition at every spot, which is good.”

Slusser said that combined with playing a lot of young players is the prospect of also facing an Inter-Valley Conference slate that is going to be very good this year.

“I felt the IVC was down last year,” he said. “Malvern won the title and (we) beat them by 20. We also lost to Tuscarawas Central Catholic by six, Sandy Valley by one and they finished second in the league; we lost to Newcomerstown by four at the end of the year and lost to Garaway by eight after we were leading 12-0 at halftime. If we had finished 6-4 we would’ve been in the playoffs and could’ve easily been 8-2 but the fact is we were 5-5 and kind of under-achieved which is probably my fault. I truly believe we were better than a 5-5 football team. I think we’ll be okay but Garaway is loaded and Newcomerstown, TCC and Sandy Valley are going to be really good and you can never count out Malvern.”

Non-conference games include Bellaire, Waynedale and River View while Slusser believes his three scrimmages could be the toughest competition his team faces all year with Indian Valley, Newark Catholic and Danville on the slate.

“It is a clean slate for everybody,” he said. “We’re all starting over but the athleticism we have excites me and they’ve been a good group to coach. I still thing we need to be tougher though. The kids need to figure out that football is a physical game.”

Tags: , ,

Category: High School, Sports

About the Author ()

Article contributed to The Beacon.

Comments are closed.