BELLVILLE — Clear Fork head football coach Dave Carroll knows he had a special group last season.
The Colts went on an historic run, won 12 games and made it to the regional finals before bowing to powerhouse St. Mary Memorial 38-7 in the Division IV regional final.
After that playoff loss in Bellefontaine, Carroll reflected on his team’s accomplishments.
“You have to remember, before last year, our kids weren’t even sniffing the playoffs since 2010. This is all new to our kids the last two years and hopefully, we won’t have to wait that long to do it again. When it becomes something you do on a regular basis, you get better at it,” he said at the end of last season.
Losing talent like Jared Schaefer, Michael Chillemi, Hunter Tollison, James Watts, Trevon Trammell, AJ Blubaugh and others isn’t easy to replace. They helped lead the Colts to a 12-1 record and two playoff victories.
“They rose above and beyond,” Carroll said of that squad.
“We lost those three big kids up front. They all started for three years and they were big.”
But now it’s time to move forward with a new season, some familiar faces and a few new ones.
Brennan South is back at quarterback, with help from Brady Tedrow in the backfield.
South, who split time with Schaefer at signal-caller, threw for 1,039 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Collin Crider returns after being injured in the Buckeye Valley game last year.
“He is a really fast kid,” Carroll said of the slotback.
Lucas Kern and Ashton Lyon also will see time at the receiver positions, along with seniors Jackson Myer and Jaxen Walker.
“We have a lot of skilled kids and are developing a system to get them all in the game and keep kids fresh.,” Carroll said.
He cites time speed, work ethic and team unity as strengths for this year’s squad.
Blocking will be a key as always and these players should help pave the way — Gunner Dulin, 215, junior; Andrew Watts 225, junior; Huvler, 225, senior; Jordan Gray, 200, senior; and Blake Miller, 215, senior.
Both Gray and Miller started on the O-line last fall.
On defense the Colts will try to retain that tough-minded style from the past few years.
Inside linebacker Tacoma Orr heads the group, along with Gabe Blauser and Dylan Belcher.
Others with experience include Tedrow and Lyon, along with Kolby Huvlerk and Brock Talbott, who saw action last season on the defensive line.
Lyon had 48 tackles, Tedrow 44, Orr 25 and Belcher 21.
Blauser will handle punting and kicking duties again as he’s the school record holder for PATs. He also averaged 39 yards per punt in 2018.
Other new faces expected to contribute include Bruce Swainhart, Elijah Hughes, Jack Harris, Jackson Myer, Brady Au and Jaxen Walker.
“It’s not like we lost everything to graduation. We lost some really good players and we have to work hard and commit to give us a chance at success,” Carroll said. “I think the kids understand that.”
He added the MOAC “looks good with the addition of Shelby. Hopefully, we will be in the mix.”
Clear Fork’s defense lost a few key players from last year’s MOAC-champion and state playoff team. But at 14-0 in league play last year, the Colts are a favorite again this year. In last week’s scrimmage with Loudonville, the Colts’ defenders once again showed they’re going to once again have an in-your-face swarming defense.
The Colts’ offense had plenty of success finding its way to paydirt last year during another ultra-successful football campaign. With many offensive players back again in 2019, a good season is once again expected in the Clear Fork Valley. This TD run was one of many good plays vs. Loudonville during a scrimmage last week.