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NEW CONCORD — “Be Uncommon”.
That’s the hope of the John Glenn High football team as it attempts to challenge in the well-balanced Muskingum Valley League this fall.
Under the guidance of veteran coach John Kelley, set to embark on his 19th year with the Muskies, John Glenn returns a good crop of veterans that will try to make their mark and improve on last year’s 6-4 record (5-3 in the MVL).
“We saw a movie back in the spring called ‘Undefeated” about a high school team in Memphis and that was the backdrop for it so that is the theme we adopted for this year,” said Kelley, who sports a 113-75 record at JGHS and an overall coaching mark of 209-158-2. “It’s a phrase (Dare to Be Uncommon) that (former NFL coach) Tony Dungy made famous.
“It’s not just about football or things on the field,” the Muskies’ boss continued. “It’s about life where you don’t want to always follow the crowd because when you do, it doesn’t always end up well.”
Kelley likes what he’s seen heading into the 2013 from his Muskies.
“We’ve got six or seven starters back on both sides of the ball and our punter and kicker return as well,” he said. “That’s a nice luxury to have where we have experience in all three phases of the game.
“We’re solid with the first group,” Kelley added, “and we’re working hard to develop some depth.”
Avoiding the injury bug is key, according to the JG coach.
“It (the key) is the same as always, staying healthy,” he said. “If you get a rash of injuries then things sometimes fall apart.”
With that amount of experience on hand, the venerable coach feels his team will be right in the mix in the MVL.
“I think the MVL will be very competitive,” Kelley offered. “We’ve got the new kids on the block like Maysville and Philo in there, and Sheridan and Tri-Valley are very good but I think the pack has caught up with them a little and they won’t be as dominant.”
Tri-Valley won the crown last fall with an 8-0 league record, part of an undefeated regular season and an 11-1 overall mark which included a two-week stay in the OHSAA playoffs.
As always, the Muskies are a run-first offense with the wing-T as the base, so don’t look for “Air Kelley” to materialize just yet.
“We’ll still be run-oriented,” the JG coach acknowledged, “but we’ve thrown it around a little this summer and hope to add that to the mix.
“Both wings are back and our fullbacks return,” Kelley added. “We are just average sized on the line, but I think we have above average strength and speed so we’ll try to capitalize on that.”
Taking over as the Muskies’ starting quarterback this fall is senior Zyler Flowers (6-0, 180), a returning letterman.
His primary back-up is junior Corey Wilson (6-0, 175) while sophomore Brody Wilfong (6-2, 160) waits in the wings.
Heading the crop of wingbacks are veterans Blake Atkins (5-10, 160) and Stone Morgan (6-2, 200), both two-year lettermen.
Atkins carried 68 times for 728 yards and 10 TDs last year and caught eight passes for 148 yards and two scores despite missing two and a half games due to injury while Morgan contributed nearly 300 rushing yards to the attack. Atkins was named first team all-Eastern District Division III and first team all-MVL.
Juniors Caleb Gaiters (5-9, 160) and Kaden Jones (5-9, 150) are also expected to share in the ball-toting duties as wingbacks.
Senior letterman Sean Whitlow (5-10, 180) and junior Tanner Morton (5-9, 190), a two-year letterman, are expected to again share the fullback duties. Whitlow collected more than 250 yards last fall while Morton tallied three touchdowns.
Other running backs are senior letterman Tyler McGee (5-8, 150); junior letterman Cody Baum (5-8, 170) and junior Sam Smith (5-8, 170); and sophomores Donta Radcliffe (5-7, 120), Daniel Bennett (5-7, 140) and Jordan Green (5-11, 190).
Three players figure to see the primary duty at wide receiver —senior letterman Christian Ross (5-8, 140), senior letterman Garrett Killian (5-10, 140) and junior Ryan Halasi (5-9, 140).
Also at wide-out are seniors Brandon James (5-2, 130) and letterman Cody Mack (5-9, 145); junior Tristan James (5-5, 115); and sophomore Neil Patel (5-11, 150).
At tight end, the top returnee is senior Chase Brown (5-9, 190), a two-year letterman whose status is uncertain due to a broken hand.
In his absence, junior letterman Ross Parks (6-0, 200) and junior Sean Bradford (6-0, 180) have seen the most time at tight end while sophomore Braden Shaffer (6-2, 175) provides back-up support.
Anchoring the offensive line at center is senior Matt Tom (5-11, 195), a two-year letterman, with sophomore Cole Larson (6-0, 250) as his main understudy.
The guard posts are manned by junior letterman Zack Dickens (5-11, 210) and junior Toby Neptune (6-2, 210), with Cole Larson again providing the top support for both.
The likely starting tackles are seniors Luke Larson (5-9, 210) and Brad Comisford (6-2, 230). Larson, a two-year letterman, was an all-Eastern District honorable mention honoree last fall while Comisford is a one-year letterman.
Junior Keith Rice (6-2, 250) is the primary back-up at tackle.
Other interior line hopefuls are juniors Will Dawson (6-2, 245) and Drew Ray (5-9, 180); and sophomores Clayton Lake (6-4, 220), James Hickenbottom (6-1, 265), Jeremy Griffith (6-3, 260) and Tristian Calderhead (6-3, 180).
While Tom returns as the team’s punter, senior letterman Ross Mathews (5-10, 165) will handle the placekicking duties again. Those two were named last year’s MVL punter and kicker of the year, respectively, with Tom averaging 37 yards on 36 punts while Mathews hit three field goals and 25 PAT kicks. Mathews was second team all-Eastern District while Tom gained honorable mention.
On the defensive side, the Muskies will again rely on their quickness.
“Defensively, again we’re not overly big,” he said. “One of our tackles who started last year was 250 and now he’s 210, but he’s stronger and quicker.
“Our ‘backers return and we’ve got our safety back,” Kelley added. “We just need to solidify the corners.”
Along the D-line, Parks and Tom are the regulars at end while Luke Larson and Dickens are at the tackles.
Other linemen are Comisford, Rice, Bradford, Dawson, Ray, Cole Larson, Lake, Hickenbottom, Griffith and Calderhead.
Brown, Morton, Neptune and Baum are ticketed for action at inside linebacker while the outside ‘backers are Morgan, Whitlow and McGee.
The rest of the linebacking corps includes Mack, Gaiters, Smith, Green and Shaffer.
In the secondary, Ross, Wilson, Killian and Halasi will see time at cornerback while Atkins and Jones are the front-line safeties.
Rounding out the Muskies’ DBs are Flowers, Brandon James, Tristan James, Radcliffe, Wilfong and Bennett.
The freshman squad includes Matthew Stewart (QB/DB), Aaron Galbreath (WR-DB), Drake Huffman (RB-LB), Owen Dean (WR-LB), Matthew Meinert (RB-LB), Kaden Miller (RB-LB), Justin Willis (RB-DB), Preston Crawford (OL-DL), Collin Nathers (OL-LB), Joseph Haddox (OL-DL), Kellen Wilson (OL-DL), Brenden Partin (OL-DL), Dominick Lynch (OL-DL), Chris Smith (OL-DL), Jacob Barnhouse (OL-DL), and Mace Snider (TE-DL).
Graduation claimed Brian Doane (first team all-MVL and the “Defensive Lineman of the Year”); Gage Snider (first team all-MVL and second team all-Eastern District); Jordan Halasi (first team all-MVL and second team all-Eastern District); Grant Hall (first team all-MVL and honorable mention all-Eastern District); Ryan Patterson (honorable mention all-MVL and all-Eastern District); Cole Bennett (special mention all-MVL); and CJ LaCroix (special mention all-MVL).
Also gone are Blaide Woodburn, R.J. Glosser, Zach Swingle, Jordan Moore, Collin Babcock, Travis Brock, Adam DeLong, Reid Bugglin and Austin Parker.
Kelley’s varsity coaching staff includes B.J. Scott, Doug Joy, Brad Barclay, Matt Edwards, Ryan Haynes and Chris Merry.
The Muskies will play their final eight games against MVL opponents, but as always will face Barnesville in the traditional opener on Friday, this time on the road.
Then comes the much-anticipated clash against neighboring Cambridge in Week 2 at Muskingum University’s McConagha Stadium.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Kelley said of facing the Bobcats, who replace New Philadelphia as John Glenn’s Muskingum Valley League-East Central Ohio League cross-over contest. “We’re less than 10 miles apart and we should be playing.
“I expect that to be a full stadium,” he continued. “I think we should do everything we can to keep this one on the schedule now that we’ve got it in place.”