Northeastern will have seven new starters on both sides of the ball.
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“We’re going to be young across the board,” he said. “We may not have the one or two guys we had, but I think as a collective group, we’re tougher and I think we’ll be a balanced team.”
The Jets graduated its two top skill players from last year in All-Ohio receiver Max Queen (31 receptions, 755 yards, 9 TDs) and quarterback Mac Davis (1,076 passing yards, 8 TDs).
Nichols saw action at quarterback a year ago, but wasn’t able to play offense for a large chunk of the season due to an injury.
The Jets are expected to start three freshmen in their spread offense, including tailback Hunter Albright and receivers Gunnar Leonard and Dylan Haggy.
“We told them they’re not freshman any more, they’re varsity football players and they’re going to be coached like it because you’ve got to play like it,” Buchholtz said. “I think they’ve done a pretty good job.”
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Senior linebackers Codey Taylor, a D-IV All-Ohio Special Mention selection who had 100 total tackles last season, and Levi Ashley will anchor the Jets defense this fall.
On the other side of the ball, Taylor moved from running back to offensive tackle.
“Its team-first and that’s what we’ve been preaching,” Buchholtz said. “Last year, we underachieved and regardless of what circumstances happened, they happened across the board to every team. We just have to fight through adversity.”
Northeastern will see three new additions to its schedule this year. Due to Ohio Heritage Conference crossover scheduling, the Jets will play three new opponents in Greenon (Week 3), Catholic Central (Week 4) and Cedarville (Week 5).
Northeastern hasn’t played former Central Buckeye Conference rival Greenon since it left for the OHC in 2001.
The Jets won’t play one of their biggest rivals Southeastern in the regular season for the first time in nearly two decades. The two teams played on Saturday as part of a five-team scrimmage that also included Twin Valley South, Greenfield McClain and Berne Union.
The OHC North Division will be as tough as ever after three teams — West Jefferson, Mechanicsburg and Fairbanks — all advanced to the playoffs last season.
“I would argue we’re the second-best small school conference in the state behind the (Midwest Athletic Conference),” Buchholtz said. “Year-in, year-out we’re sending three to four teams to the playoffs that are making noise. We’re going to play with the big boys and hopefully our kids are up for it.”
The Jets have made the playoffs seven times in school history, but their last appearance was 2003. They’ll have to navigate a tough schedule to advance to the Division IV, Region 24 playoffs.
“It’s such a mindset,” Buchholtz said. “The biggest factor in believing is winning. If we can start ripping off some wins, that changes some things. It’s starting with little goals and working our way up as a team. It’s about believing in one another.”