On a hot, humid day last week I traveled northeast from Dayton to Urbana, where the high school looks like an imposing fortress sitting up high on a hill in the middle of a neighborhood.
With the Hillclimbers breaking in their third new coach in five seasons, here are five things to know about Urbana football:
1. Coach Carleton Cotner is a few months into his first year after replacing Jon Daniels at Urbana.
He spoke eagerly about the chance to provided some stability for the Hillclimbers, who have posted consecutive 2-8 seasons.
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2. Cotner sees the makings of a strong core of players, but like more than a few area programs, he’d like to see greater numbers on the roster.
The 30-35 players who have been taking part in offseason workouts are only about half what Cotner had to work with at fellow Central Buckeye Conference member Bellefontaine, where he was an assistant for the past three years.
Cotner he went 26-44 as head coach at Benjamin Logan from 2007-13. Cotner also has head coaching experience at Fairbanks and 10 seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level.
3. Back in charge of his own program, Cotner said he plans to run some old-fashioned plays — iso, “power” and toss — out of what’s now a common formation — the spread.
Defensively, the Hillclimbers will move from a 4-2-5 to a 3-3-5 stack.
4. The offense will be built around quarterback Preston Shields, whom Cotner called a “Tim Tebow type” for his build.
The defense returns linebacker Bailey Ullah, who led the CBC with 110 tackles last season.
5. The coach anticipates having to walk a tightrope in camp to get enough good work to be ready for the season and avoid injuries, but some of his older players are looking to take ownership of their last chance to represent UHS on the gridiron.
When all is said and done, seniors like Logan Rooney have a goal that is not too surprising.
“It would kind of suck to go out of here with three straight losing seasons,” said Rooney, who was a freshman when the Hillclimbers went 7-3 and won the CBC Mad River division. “We want to leave our mark, maybe get up there on that board of champions.”