Despite a roster full of freshmen and sophomores, the Mechanicsburg High School football team finished 8-2 last fall, advancing to the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
A year later, the Indians are a year older and ready to make a run at the Ohio Heritage Conference North Division championship.
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“I think our effort is phenomenal,” said Indians coach Kurt Forrest. “I don’t think we’re the fastest team, but we’re fast. We’re not the biggest team, but we’re not small. We’re solid across the board and we’re looking to become better than that.”
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The Indians’ only regular-season losses were to undefeated Greeneview and West Jefferson. Mechanicsburg advanced to the playoffs for the 14th time since 1999, including its fifth straight appearance. It fell at Spencerville 34-0 in the first round of the Division VI, Region 24 playoffs.
The Indians had just four upperclassmen who saw time last year, Forrest said.
“It was a youth movement out of necessity,” he said.
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That should be a positive for the Indians this season, Forrest said. They’ll return eight starters on both sides of the ball, he said.
“We have to come together as a team big time, big, big time,” Forrest said. “They’ve showed signs of it. When they do that, they’re an impressive group. We have to make sure we continue to do that.”
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Returning starting quarterback sophomore Logan Hurst and freshman Aaron Conley will both see time under center for the Indians, Forrest said.
“They’re both taking a lot of snaps,” he said. “Last time I checked there’s no rule in the rule book that says you can only play one. … It’s like a heavyweight tag team wrestling duo.”
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In the backfield, senior Joey Mascadri and sophomore Chase Propst will handle the load for the Indians. Sophomore wideouts Keith Bebout and Mack DeLong and sophomore tight end Kix Teal will handle the receiving duties.
Senior Chad Deere and Austin Parsons will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines, Forrest said.
The Indians new Week 1 opponent is Kenton Ridge, a neighboring school from the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division. Mechanicsburg previously had a longtime Week 1 rivalry game against West Jefferson, which joined the OHC last season.
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“It made too much sense on too many levels not to reach out to them and see if they had interest,” Forrest said. “It’s going to be a huge crowd. Coach (Joel) Marratta has done a great job over the years and always has a competitive bunch. I know this year’s (team) is a talented group. We know we’ll have our hands full, but it’s a challenge we look forward to.”
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The non-conference schedule doesn’t get any easier with the likes of Riverside and Greeneview, he said. It will be great preparation for the tough OHC north, which includes West Jefferson, Fairbanks, West Liberty-Salem, Triad and Northeastern.
“In small-school football, I’d put it second only to that conference in the northwest part of the state (the Midwest Athletic Conference),” Forrest said. “When the schools were putting that together, we wanted to create a situation that would make everybody rise up competition-wise. I think we’ve done that.”
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The Indians have their work cut out for them during every part of the schedule, Forrest said.
“Our goal every year is to reach our maximum potential,” he said. “If we do that, we have a chance to be in and compete for every single game.”
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Status: D-VI, Region 24
Coach: Kurt Forrest, ninth season
Week 1: 7 p.m. Friday at Kenton Ridge