CLAYTON — With a new coach at the helm and 88 players on the varsity roster, the Northmont Varsity Football Team is entering the 2015 season with a positive outlook and high hopes for success.
Last year Northmont finished 4-6 overall with a 2-3 division record.
Interim Head Coach Tony Broering says this year’s team will run the ball more often, but the passing game will still be a key element to the Thunderbolts’ attack.
The team features 25 seniors, 28 juniors and more than 30 sophomores.
Senior Chris Timmons, a four year player, will start at quarterback.
“He has a good command of what we are doing and he’s a good kid and a straight A student,” Broering said. “He’s a fantastic young man, so right now we are entrusting the quarterback duties to him.”
Broering stressed that this year’s team does a variety of things on offense with different formations and different players taking the snap.
During their final scrimmage at Miamisburg the Thunderbolts ran the ball exclusively during the entire third quarter as opposed to the first half, when the team threw the ball quite a bit.
“We are very proficient at throwing the ball and we had a touchdown pass at Miamisburg,” Broering noted. “We have some really talented receivers so we have to throw it, but our emphasis this year is going to be clock management, field position, and time of possession, so we are going to run the ball. We probably have one of the best running backs in the conference, if not the best running back, Avery Miliner. We are going to give him the ball and showcase him.”
Last year Miliner carried the ball 162 times for 877 yards (5.4 yards per carry) with five touchdowns.
Broering also said sophomore Donovan Wallace, who played quarterback on the freshman team, would be playing slot and running back this year and sophomore Jabari Perkins would both be running the ball. He said both can run the ball very well.
Featured receivers will include senior Brenden Jewsikow, junior Logan Zerkle, and junior Arius Spears.
“The heart and soul of our offense is senior wide receiver Nick Boyd, who came over last year from Chaminade-Julienne and has been a big part of our team,” Broering stated. “We have a lot of talented skill players and I am probably forgetting two or three of them.”
Anchoring the offensive line will be senior center Ryan Roth, senior guard D.J. Hudson, senior Steven Schrodi, a three year starter, junior tackle Jon Sherman and junior Alan Hackney, who Broering says is grading out above all the lineman right now.
“We have a luxury this year that we haven’t had in year’s past, and that is having an abundance of offensive lineman. Besides the boys I just mentioned, there are also some really good kids that are in the rotation on the offensive line that wouldn’t be considered the starting five, but they could be,” Broering said. “Chane Prysock (sophomore) is very talented, Jalen Hinton (sophomore) is 6-feet, 3-inches and 292 pounds and plays left tackle and he is very good too. We have seven or eight offensive lineman who can play, so we’ve just been mixing and matching to try and find the right combination of who we want in there in certain situations.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Broering feels the team’s strength is the defensive line.
“Of all the position groups, the defensive line would probably be the best group,” Broering said. They have the most experience and the most talent. Overall, the strength of the team is the front seven on defense, the front four and the three linebackers.”
At middle linebacker is three year starter senior Jimi Saul, who Broering said is like having a coach on the field. Another senior who Broering said has done a fantastic job is inside linebacker Austin Kossoudji and junior outside linebacker Chuck Saul, who started last year as a sophomore. Another sophomore who will see action at linebacker is Devin Kenerly.
On the defensive line the one player who stood out most at camp, according to Broering, is senior defensive end James Abrams (6-feet, 5-inches, 230 pounds).
“He is very difficult to block one-on-one, and if you don’t block him he will chase down the ball carrier,” Broering noted.
Returning defensive linemen that played a significant amount last year include junior Alex Birt (6-feet, 200 pounds), senior Nick Moore, a legitimate 4-year starter who has also played offensive line, but who was brought over to anchor the defensive line because of his leadership, charisma and get after it attitude. Senior Jeremiah Shepherd, senior defensive end Prince Benson who Broering said has progressed more than any other player in the program over the last four years. Senior Jake Monnin was switched from an inside linebacker to defensive end.
“So just like on the offensive line, we don’t just have three or four good players, we have seven or eight – so that keeps us fresh. We get a rotation in there and the kids go all out on each play, then we take them out and let them catch their breath and their backups are very capable, if not as good,” Broering stated. “We are very, very blessed and fortunate to have such a group.”
The defensive secondary is one area that has seen a lot of younger players thrown into the mix.
“We’ve had to replace a lot of experienced players in the secondary. We lost a lot of seniors back there, so we will be playing some sophomores and they are figuring it out,” Broering said. “They are very talented players.”
Among those players is sophomore Dominic Wilson who Broering felt could have come up to varsity last year. Senior Cameron Rucker will play free safety and is probably one of the best pure athletes on the team.
“We have a couple of older boys too that are trying to lead that group in senior Cameron Reaman and junior Christian Wilson, so there is a good mix back there of youth and experience,” Broering said. “They are really trying to get it handled, and that’s tough. That’s a very difficult position. People think quarterback is the hardest position to play on the field, and it is very difficult. But cornerback… you are by yourself. You’re on an island and if you make a mistake, everybody in the stands knows it. Just like a quarterback, if you throw an interception everybody knows it, but sometimes that can be because of the pressure of the offensive line breaking down or a back missing his assignment or because the receiver ran the wrong route. But at cornerback, if a guy runs past you for a touchdown everybody knows it. It’s a tough, tough position and you have to have a certain mentality to play back there, so it’s tough to find the kids that match all those criteria – mental toughness, athleticism, speed, and agility. So that’s one area we are still working on.”
The defensive secondary could be put to the test right out of the gate when Northmont opens the season at home against Hilliard Darby, a team ranked No. 1 in Division II according to some preseason state polls. Last year the Panthers finished with a 9-2 overall record and went 7-0 in conference play.
Quarterback Nick Powers rushed for 1,213 yards on 225 carries with 18 touchdowns and completed 69 of 97 pass attempts for 1,136 yards and 10 touchdowns. Joining Powers in the Panther backfield are running backs Kyle Colvin, Richie Palsgrove and fullback Nick Untch. Colvin finished 2014 second in every major rushing category behind Powers with 120 carries, 584 yards and seven touchdowns. Palsgrove finished the season with 35 carries for 169 yards while Untch should fill the void left by the graduation of Lorenzo McLaurin, Cameron Kean and Trevor Cox.
Despite losing two team captains from the defensive side of the ball in Trevor Cox and Bed Radcliff, the Darby defense has a chance to remain a very strong unit in 2015. The Panther defense returns linebacker Braeden Hook among others to a stout defensive unit that allowed just 13.5 points per game last season. Darby’s defense also forced 22 turnovers en route to their 9-1 season.
“I think we play some of the best quarterbacks in the state this year, starting with Nick Powers,” Broering said. “He was the Player of the Year in the Ohio Capital Conference last year. He is a big, strong kid about 6-feet, 2-inches and 200 pounds and he is an athlete, so we have our hands full with them. They are ranked as high No. 1 in Division II in some preseason polls and favored to win the whole thing. Hilliard Darby is bringing a lot of players back from last year’s playoff team when they were in Division I. They are going to be all that and they have a great coaching staff.”
Broering credits his own coaching staff for giving the Thunderbolts so much success in preseason.
“I brag about my guys all the time,” he noted. “I’ve got a great defensive staff in coaches Aaron Fister, Mike Mangen, Mike Weber, John Brands and Chris Stanley. They handle the defense for me and I don’t have to worry about it. They are fantastic guys. On offense we have coaches Mark Mays, Shane Kincer, John Bass and Earl Taylor, so we’ve got the perfect mix on both sides of the ball. But I will say this about Darby; their staff is good too so they are going to be prepared and ready. They have some good football players and they are going to be tough.”
Northmont hosts Hilliard Darby this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Northmont Varsity Football Schedule
Aug. 28 Hilliard Darby 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 Fairfield 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 at Lakota East 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 Piqua 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Springboro 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Beavercreek 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 Centerville 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 at Wayne 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 Fairmont 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 at Springfield 7 p.m.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind