Things changed at Tecumseh last football season. After five straight playoff trips, the Arrows stayed home with a 4-6 record.
“After the tradition we’ve been put into of winning championships and going to the playoffs, and then just going 4-6 last year, it was pretty much devastating,” said senior receiver and cornerback Kyle Terrel. “It was like a punch to the mouth.”
The Arrows are ready to punch back with some new strategies in Kent Massie’s 10th year as head coach and 23rd year at the school. He describes the new offense that longtime offensive coordinator Chris Cory has installed as multiple. Whatever it is, it won’t look like the wing-T that has brought the Arrows so much success.
“You ask anybody walking the streets of New Carlisle and they’ll tell you we’re running the spread now, baby,” Massie said.
The spread has required defenses to become more complex, something the Arrows have learned while defending against it. Senior Conner Henry, the Arrows’ best athlete, played quarterback on the scout team last year and often had to mimic spread offenses.
“When we saw him running it in practice we thought we need to put this in and make him our quarterback,” Massie said. “And he had a great interest in doing that. So that’s what we did.”
Massie is confident in Henry’s ability to run and pass. Henry’s skill position mates will be big Camren Moore (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) running the ball and Terrel and Ryan Sierecki leading a cast of slot and wide receivers. It is 6-4, 250-pound senior Seth Martin’s challenge to bring together an inexperienced offensive line.
“The younger guys have a little difficulty learning the plays, but once they learn the plays we’ll be OK,” Martin said. “They have the ability.”
The hoped-for change on defense is to eliminate the avalanche of big plays that the Arrows allowed last year.
“We’ve added a few new things, but all around we’ve just become more physical,” Terrel said. “This year we’ll be a lot better defense: more ball hawks, a lot more hard-nosed, more physical, a lot more excitement.”
Moore will anchor the defense again at middle linebacker where he led the team in tackles last year and was all-conference. Martin at defensive tackle, Terrel, outside linebacker Michael Bresley and end Tyler Pruitt bring experience to the defense.
Massie said his coaching staff, which includes longtime members Cory, defensive coordinator Tuffy Thompson and special teams coordinator Chad Hale, has been instrumental in the Arrows’ success. But that isn’t always enough.
“What I’m seeing this year is they’re playing for each other,” Massie said. “They’re a very selfless group of kids with that team-first mentality. That’s pretty neat to have in a group of young men.”
The Arrows face a difficult schedule as usual. Six of their 10 opponents made the playoffs last year, including Vandalia Butler. Among all the little things and the big plays that felled the Arrows last year, the loss to Butler cost them the playoffs. Butler stopped the Arrows a foot from the end zone at the end of the game and, in the end, went to the playoffs instead of the Arrows.
“The challenge is obviously our non-league schedule, and everybody in our league, minus Tipp City, has a majority of guys coming back,” Massie said. “And, of course, Tipp City is Tipp City. I don’t remember the last time they missed a playoff.”
Current Arrows might not have remembered the last time the Arrows missed the playoffs until last year.
“I think there’s a strong possibility that we could be a very strong team,” Martin said.
Coach: Kent Massie, 10th season (64-36)
OHSAA designation: Division II, Region 6
Playoff history: 5-8 in eight appearances (1998, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
2013 record: 4-6 overall, 2-3 in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division (third, tied)
Schedule: Aug. 29 — Fairborn, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 5 — Vandalia Butler, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 12 — at Cincinnati Northwest, 7 p.m.; Sept. 19 — at Graham, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 26 — Urbana, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 3 — at Kenton Ridge, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 10 — Stebbins, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 17— at Shawnee, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 24 — at Tippecanoe, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 31 — Bellefontaine, 7:30 p.m.