Guess what the Middies are thinking about this season?
“As far back as the fourth grade, we’ve always had winning records,” center/defensive lineman Patrick Forrer said of this year’s senior class. “We’ve done really well and won a lot of championships during that time. It feels good to have a last hurrah with (quarterback) Cody (Callaway) and the rest of these guys.
“Every year, we’ve gone either 8-2 or 9-1. We always seem to get close to that undefeated season, but we wind up coming a bit short. I think we have the talent to do it this year. I want an undefeated season.”
Of course, the Middies also want to finally get past Avon, win the West Shore Conference and qualify for the playoffs for the second straight year. Last year the Middies lost in the first round to Toledo Central Catholic, which went on to win the Division II state title.
“I’ve been fortunate to start since my freshman year, and being in the playoffs last year made the team a lot stronger,” said Callaway, a Bowling Green recruit. “This year, we should be able to put more things together and go further than last year.”
Bill Albright, entering his 27th year as Middies coach, has been going with the two-platoon system on offense and defense the last couple of seasons. However, he’s altering that plan slightly to try to maximize his team’s strengths.
“We’re still focusing on two-platooning, but we know in order to be successful, we’ve got to have our athletes on the field at all times,” Albright said. “We learned that from last year. I think sticking with that strategy hurt us in a few games because we didn’t have our best athletes out there. We have a lot of tremendous athletes on this team, and we’re going to take advantage of that by using a few guys on both sides of the ball.
“There’s a handful of those kids that are learning two positions, and that’s been tough during practice to get them an equal number of reps. We’ll see how that works out. But we can’t have talent sitting on the bench, and I’m afraid we did that last year, and I think that cost us. However, against Central Catholic, we would have needed a few Buckeyes and Browns on our side to beat them.”
Among the players getting reps on the other side are Forrer, who had been strictly a center since his sophomore year; senior Devon Crum, who was primarily a linebacker but will also play fullback and tight end; senior Jack Duffner, a receiver last year who will move to tight end and also play defensive end; and senior Dante Redwood, a starting cornerback who will also play tailback.
Albright wants to try to establish a solid running game to make things a little easier on Callaway.
“We’re kind of building the offense this year to take some of the pressure off of him,” Albright said. “We didn’t have much of a running game last year. We had to rely on him too much and it ended up costing us, especially in the playoffs. A balanced offense is more dangerous.”
Crum and junior Brett Zupancic, regularly a defensive lineman, will alternate at fullback, while Redwood and senior Kolby Hirschfelder will alternate at tailback to help shore up that running game.
“It’s a big challenge. I’ve got to get myself in better shape since I’ll be playing both ways this year,” said Crum, who is one of the leaders on defense. “But I’m looking forward to carrying the ball and blocking a lot more this year.
“We know we’ve got to get over the hump and beat Avon in order to win the conference. We want to not only get back to the playoffs, but get far in the playoffs. That’s always our goal.”
The Middies have seven starters returning on both sides of the ball. Still, in addition to replacing some key players at the skill positions such as Eric Lauer and Zack Bates, they have to replace players on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“We’ve got to build up our offensive line and defensive line, find some depth at those positions,” Albright said. “If we can do that, I like these kids. They’ve got a great attitude and they’re enthusiastic. The younger guys get a lot of reps as well, which makes them better, and going against Cody in practice every day should help us when we get into game action.”
Albright said he likes the Middies’ inside linebackers and the secondary and also singled out senior Brandon Matcham for his kicking duties.
“We had a good group last year, with a good group of seniors,” Albright said. “They’re going to be tough to replace. But we’re fortunate enough that we have a good nucleus coming back on both sides of the ball, as well as the kicking game, which is so important.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s a good schedule that should get us ready for the postseason if we win some games. They have a great work ethic. They’ve got great enthusiasm. We’ve just got to put it all together.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
CONFERENCE: West Shore
2012 RECORD: 9-2, 6-1
COACH: Bill Albright, 27th year, 169-101
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 14
RETURNING STARTERS: 14
FAST FACT: Sophomore receiver/safety Logan Bolin is the son of former North Ridgeville standout Ray Bolin, who has joined the Middies coaching staff this season.
Aug. 30 at Lorain
Sept. 6 Amherst
Sept. 13 at Elyria
Sept. 20 at Rocky River*
Sept. 27 at Avon*
Oct. 4 North Ridgeville*
Oct. 11 Bay*
Oct. 18 at Elyria Catholic*
Oct. 25 Lakewood*
Nov. 1 Berea-Midpark
All games at 7 p.m.
* West Shore Conference game