Practices have become more effective for the Cedarville Indians during the high school football preseason. It helps when the team has more players than there are starting positions on offense and defense.
Cedarville’s roster has risen from 18 players last season to 27. The difference has been noticeable at practice.
“We don’t have to have the coaches standing in positions during practice,” said coach Jason Christian, who enters his seventh season.
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Cedarville returns nine offensive and defensive starters from a team that went 1-9 overall and 1-5 in the Ohio Heritage Conference’s South Division. The victory came in a Week 10 defeat of Catholic Central, a 41-0 win that helped Cedarville avoided a second straight 0-10 season. The win also snapped a 27-game losing streak dating back to Week 3 of 2015.
“That was good to get that win,” Christian said. “That was a rainy night and they were belly sliding across the field. They were pretty excited. It’d be nice to have some success. That always helps the program, too. The kids down the line see that and want to be part of it.”
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Cedarville nearly defeated Greenon and Triad before falling 7-6 and 34-32, respectively. With more experience – and bodies – the Indians are looking to build on that Week 10 win.
Underclassmen still make up the bulk of the roster with seven sophomores and seven freshmen. But leadership is strong with eight seniors and five juniors. Those numbers have also helped Cedarville field a JV team.
“Numbers wise, I always said if you can get seven kids per class – 28 kids – that’s a pretty good number for us,” Christian said. “We’re on that border so that’s good. We’re gaining and going in the right direction.”
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Senior offensive linemen and defensive ends Caleb Harding and Hunter Nier anchor both lines. Senior receiver and safety Hayden Lee returns as the Indians’ leading tackler.
Senior running back and cornerback Brandon Pollock and junior cornerback Colby Cross are solid defenders. Sophomore running back and linebacker Kane Odon add toughness.
Cross and sophomore linebacker Hunter Baldwin, who injured an elbow early last season, are also both working at quarterback.
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Pollock, Odon and senior tight end and linebacker Tommy Lowe are expected to see the bulk of the carries at running back.
Prior to this season the tallest player on Cedarville’s offensive and defensive line was Nier at 6 feet 1. The heaviest was junior Zach Fair at 245 pounds. That changed when senior Malcolm Rogers moved into the district from Texas. He’s listed at 6-4 and 320 pounds.
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“He’s the biggest kid I’ve ever coached,” said Christian, who doesn’t want the staff or community to put unreasonable expectations on Rogers because of his size. “It was kind of like The Blindside when he walked into the gym. Everyone was like, ‘Who is that?’ We’ll see how he does.”
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Cedarville added new non-league games in Weeks 1 and 2. Mississinawa Valley replaces Mechanicsburg and East Clinton bumps Strasburg-Franklin. The crossover games with the OHC North are again West Liberty-Salem, West Jefferson and Triad.
“We’re more confident because the kids are older,” Christian said. “I’m not going to say we’re going to win seven games or anything, but we should be more competitive than last year … Just a good hardworking group of kids. They know what to expect on Friday nights and they’re excited to do it.”