CAMDEN — The Preble Shawnee football team is taking aim at their opponents for 2016. Having gone 3-7 last year, the Arrows are hoping for better play and more victories.
Coach Matt Hopkins is beginning his fifth year with Shawnee. “We had some issues where some guys left the team and the team underachieved,” Hopkins said of last season. “This made us hungrier to do better.”
The most glaring loss from last year’s team is four-year quarterback Joby Williams, and receiver Trey Smith. Both players hold almost every school passing and receiving record. In addition, All-SWBL first-team lineman Nick Frost is gone.
“He was a great leader, he was big, mean and physical. He set the tone in how we want our offensive line to play,” Hopkins said. “I also want to mention Colton Dillon, our All-SWBL second team defensive lineman. He was an anchor to the interior of our defense.”
The Arrows return six starters on both sides of the ball, and 17 lettermen for the season.
“Due to always having a low number of kids in a small school, we have to play younger kids even when we don’t want to,” said Hopkins. “The same offensive schemes will take place this year, with more formations and personnel groupings added in to complement the running game that (we) have enjoyed over the years. We are looking to get our playmakers the ball in space and a lot of lead blockers in place to take advantage of our skills.
“The biggest challenge is to get the younger players prepared for the speed of the game and the Friday night environment so they don’t become like a deer in the headlights,” he added.
Kevin Ketring is the senior quarterback for this year.
“The pressure is a big step for playing quarterback for the first time,” said Ketring. “We didn’t get a lot of scrimmage time because of the rain, but I think the coaches have prepared me well and we have a good offensive line. We’re working mostly in the shotgun, but we are putting in other formations to expand our opportunities. I’ve been a backup for three years, so really, the offense hasn’t changed that much and I know the schemes and feel confident I can pick up on everything efficiently.”
Luke Lovely is considered to be the strongman of the team, playing fullback and linebacker as a junior.
“The contact on every play is demanding,” Lovely said. “You have to be physical at all times, gotta go all out and never back down, or it will never work. I like making tackles more, but scoring touchdowns is good for the team.”
Joining Lovely in the backfield will be junior Eli Gibson as a wingback who is known for his speed. Matt Hall will also play in the backfield.
The offensive line is Hopkins’ pride and joy. “These are my favorite guys. If the guys up front are not any good, our skilled players will never get the job done. We are replacing three guys up front from last year, but the new guys are working really hard. The linemen don’t get any credit, they don’t get their names in the paper but they have a love for the game. I’m excited to see what they can do.”
The players likely to play in the trenches are Colton Pugh (Sr) at tackle, Alex Steele at guard, Tyler Hawkins (Jr) at center, Michael Bridgeford at the other guard spot, and Caleb Moore (Sr) at right tackle.
Bridgeford is a returning starter on the interior positions. “I hope that we do very well and have a winning season,” Bridgeford said. “Maybe we can break the record of 8-2 as a school. I like to use my wit and speed in my blocking because I’m not the biggest lineman, so it’s something I like to do. It’s more fun to outwit my opponents than to rely solely on strength.”
Steele, is a senior gaurd and defensive tackle and returning starter. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years,” he said about his life as a football player. “My execution and blocking has improved. As a senior, the younger guys will be looking up to me to be the best, so I have to set the example.”
When speaking of the defense, Hopkins made it clear: “This is a group that really needs to get after it. They have struggled to get teams last year so they have really made a point to do the extra things to get stronger.”
At nose tackle, Steele will man the position. Gunner Crank (Sr) and Bridgeford are likely to man the defensive end positions. They are expected to demand double-team blocks to free up lanes for the linebackers.
The linebackers will be led by Lovely, John Powers (Sr), Gibson, Pugh and Gunner Edwards (Sr). “These are the guys whom nobody wants to meet in a dark alley,” said Hopkins. “Linebackers are the kind of guy who’s supposed to be mean and love to hit. I think it’s a pretty good group. They will do it all: blitz, defend the pass and stop the run.”
Hall is returning in the secondary along with Ketring. There will be competition for another spot between freshman Austin Tutt, and juniors Austin Moore and Cole Heger.
Also on the roster are Cody Clevenger (So), Jake Green (Fr), Chase Thompson (Jr), Kanyon Schall (Fr), Bryson Trantanella (Jr), Eddie Kincaid (So), Ben Hobbs (Fr), Austin Fields (So), Devin Tutt (Jr), Lane Conway (Sr), Eyan Haemmmerle (Fr), Michael Hazelwood (Fr), Jordan Stubbs (So), Tyler Stevenson (Fr), Justin Gudorf (Jr), Caleb Barrett (Fr), Tanner Crabtree (Sr), Logan Sapp (Fr), and Mitchell Middaugh (Fr).
The Arrows will host county foe National Trail on Friday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. to begin the season.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH.