November 26, 2014

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High school football 2014: Vermilion looking for a new home … and more wins, too

VERMILION — There’s a Navy saying about having “gear adrift” when something is out of place or doesn’t quite seem to fit.

That expression might be heard in Vermilion these days when talking about the Sailors — the high school football Sailor, that is.

Vermilion is looking for a conference that fits, one that it can be competitive in and that is familiar.

“We have to find a fit,” said Rob Duray, starting his second season as coach of the Sailors. “We’re hoping to find a conference we can compete in. For now, we’re playing a tough schedule. We’re a D-IV school and our enrollment is declining.”

The Sailors have bounced around in the past couple decades since the old Erie Shore folded after the 1996 football season.

Vermilion has played in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and the West Shore after a prior stint as an independent.

The Sailors left the West Shore two years ago hoping to land in the Northern Ohio Conference but it didn’t work out.

They’ve applied to the Patriot Athletic Conference, the newly formed Great Lakes Conference and others to no avail.

“The current administration is working their tails off trying to find a fit,” Duray said. “It’s just a tough thing right now.”

Vermilion is coming off a 2-8 season and has won just six games since its last winning season in 2008.

The Sailors’ schedule includes a couple of old rivals — Clearview and Firelands — and a few new rivals in Fairview, Norwalk and Perkins.

The rest were filled in with whatever team had an opening, but Duray is confident the program is on the right path.

“We have 14 lettermen returning,” he said. “Ethan Griffith was All-Ohio a year ago at guard but we’re still young and relatively inexperienced. Our first three games are critical. Game 3 (Firelands) is our homecoming and that’s a big rivalry for us.”

“Right now the focus is on Clearview,” said Griffith, a senior. “We need to get off to a great start. That will help us have a good season.”

Vermilion’s two wins last year came against Clearview and Firelands but the Sailors dropped their last seven games including a couple of tough losses to Ontario and Lucas by a touchdown or less.

Griffith, who will anchor both sides of the ball, is anxious to get started. The All-Ohio and other individual accolades he got a year ago were nice and appreciated, but Griffith wants the team to be successful.

“I’d trade anything in the world for more wins,” he said. “The team comes ahead of any individual awards. We want to improve on our record.”

Griffith is getting looks from Youngstown State and Hillsdale but said he hasn’t had any offers yet.

“I appreciate the game,” he said. “I enjoy it. I want to be on the field all the time.”

Griffith will be at guard on offense and tackle on defense. Seniors Ryan Manning (fullback) and Ted Breeding (tackle) return along with junior quarterback Nick Bray.

Senior wide receiver Jakob Yost and junior tight end Billy Szabo figure to be Bray’s favorite target. Seniors Brandon Cole and who scored twice last year at Firelands, are also experienced backs. Junior Joey Rini is back to handle the punting and kicking chores.

Defensively, along with Griffith, Cole and Louis Maynard are experienced linebackers. Yost and Bray are experienced defensive backs.

“We’ll run the Wing-T with some pistol formations,” Duray said. “The kids have worked hard. We’ll be competitive. We’ve got 50 kids out grades nine through 12. We have good senior leadership and very good young talent. We’re just not real deep.

“It’s a close-knit group that cares about each other. They’re dedicated and hardworking. They want the program to succeed.”

Contact Tim Gebhardt at (440) 329-7135 or at timothygeb@msn.com.

Vermilion Sailors

CONFERENCE: Independent
2013 RECORD: 2-8
COACH: Rob Duray, 2nd year (2-8)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 14
RETURNING STARTERS: (4 offense, 4 defense)
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 4
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 1997
NUMBERS GAME: After winning six of its last seven games in 2008, Vermilion has won only six games since.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ethan Griffith was All-Ohio last year at guard and will see action on both sides of the ball this year.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 29 at Clearview
Sept. 5 Fairview
Sept. 12 Firelands
Sept. 20 at Cleveland CC (1 p.m.)
Sept. 26 at Toledo Start
Oct. 3 at Ontario
Oct. 10 Youngstown Christian
Oct. 17 Norwalk
Oct. 24 Spencerville
Oct. 31 Perkins
All games 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.