Generals look to rebound from ‘disappointing’ season

| August 21, 2013
Ridgewood High School 2013 Varsity Football

Ridgewood High School 2013 Varsity Football

WEST LAFAYETTE – For the vast majority of Ohio’s high school football teams, a final record of 6-4 would mean that they have had a successful season.

However the players, coaches and communities in the eastern portion of Coshocton County are accustomed to very high standards.

“Our kids have heard people commenting about how we were down last year, but we were still 6-4,” commented Ridgewood head coach John Slusser. “For our kids it was a failure although a record like that used to be considered a good year.”

The Generals saw a streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances and eight Inter-Valley Conference championships in the past 10 years all come to a halt but Coach Slusser believes his team is resolved to make their way back to the top.

“It’s been such an unbelievable ride we’ve been on for a long time and you knew sooner or later you were going to crash. For a school our size to have a playoff run like we’ve had is almost unheard of,” Slusser said. “If this is our down cycle and our record dips to 6-4 or 7-3 – and those are your bad years – anybody would trade that with you.

“It was a little disheartening (to finish) 6-4 but we still finished the season pretty strong. The teams we lost to were all really good teams so it wasn’t like we stumbled and did things that were unacceptable; we just got beat by better teams.”

Three of the Generals’ losses last season came to playoff teams, including conference co-champions Garaway (34-7) and Malvern (32-7) and Liberty Center (35-0). The other loss was against 5-5 Martins Ferry (38-23).

“We’ve lost a little bit of our invincibility,” Slusser said. “For a lot of groups here, they didn’t know what it was like to lose. The teams of 2009 and 2010 were unbeaten and we had a 27-game winning streak. A lot of our kids never thought about losing because it never happened.”

Fortunately, the core of this year’s squad is only one year removed from having won an IVC title and experiencing the playoffs.

Among them are senior quarterback Ryan Lowe, who will be starting for his second year. He is joined in the backfield by juniors Zach Donley and Tommy Montague at fullback. Halfback in the rotation will be senior Tevis Whitt, junior Alex Croston and sophomore Billy Bailey.

Additionally, the Generals will get a boost from senior fullback/middle linebacker Garrett Bethel by week two of the regular season. Seeking his fourth varsity letter, Bethel is currently attending military boot camp as part of an early-entry program. He was a first-team All IVC performer last season.

Several players are currently battling for the starting split end position, including seniors D.J. Varian, Matt Saylor, juniors Joey Kraska and Thor Reed and sophomore Austin Lowery. At tight end will be senior Laiken Bluck and sophomore Brice Hammond.

The Generals have good experience on the line with the return of senior Jared Lindig at center, senior Andrew “Mo” Vaughn and Tommy Layman at guard and seniors Jake Eckelberry and junior Blake Feldner at tackle.

Battling for playing time in the trenches are Trevor Fuller, Kelly Barthalow, Ben Hostetler and Matt Leitz. All four are juniors.

Defensively, Layman and Eckelberry will be the ends with Vaughn and Bluck at tackle.

The line backing corps will consist of senior Cole Zeigler and Hammond outside and Montague, Lindig and Bethel inside.

Cornerbacks will be Lowery, Varian and Croston while Donley, Bailey and Whitt will play safety.

Layman was second team All-IVC a year ago while Zeigler and Whitt earned honorable mention.

Lowe could also see time at safety and will be the kicker. Whitt will attempt point-after kicks and field goals while Jarrett Art has an inside track on the punter position.

Additionally, senior David Hunt is seeking playing time at fullback and linebacker.

Overall, the Generals have 11 seniors, 17 juniors and eight sophomores on the roster. Also, there are 18 freshmen players.

Another area in which the Generals are in transition is at offensive coordinator. Long-time play-caller Jamie McCrea resigned and has been named the new head boys varsity basketball coach. Taking over the reins are Chris Cabot and Todd Cabot.

“Our senior class is a really nice group of kids and it’s probably been one of the more enjoyable groups that we’ve had here,” Slusser stated. “They’re real hard-working and have been great about being where they’re supposed to be and are giving great effort. You never know about how the playing ability will be until you’ve been able to play.

The Generals open the season on Saturday, Aug. 31 against Buckeye Trail at Ridgewood Stadium. Other non-conference clashes including a road game at Waynedale on Friday, Sept. 6 and a home contest against county rival River View on Friday, Sept. 13. Things get no easier as the General open Inter-Valley Conference play at Garaway Friday, Sept. 20.

Slusser believes that Malvern will be the team to beat in the IVC while Garaway, with a roster of 77 strong will also be a tough test.

“We’ll be competitive because I know our kids will play hard,” Slusser said. “I’m not putting any limits on these kids to the amount of success they can have this year. The kids are talking about becoming champions again. I don’t know where we’ll be in terms of wins and losses but I do know that I do enjoy being around and coaching them.”

This story was contributed to The Beacon by Jim Barstow.



Tags: , ,

Category: High School

About the Author ()

Article contributed to The Beacon.

Comments are closed.