Carroll and Tri-Central of the Hoosier Heartland Conference and Peru of the Three Rivers Conference all had losing records in the 2018 football campaign, and all three would like to see improvement in the new season.
The following are capsules of the three schools.
The Cougars went 4-7 overall and 2-4 in the HHC in 2018. Third-year coach Kevin Sayler said he did make some changes for the upcoming year to get his Cougars ready for battle.
“As a head coach you are always reflective of things you do in your program,” Sayler said. “We changed our strength and conditioning approach, and I think we are stronger and faster than last year.
“We looked at some things defensively that we can tweak and a few different things there. Offensively, we made some adjustments in the run game that fit our players a little better.”
The Cougars’ returning players are led by seniors Luke Marley (LB, OL), Ayden Ayres (WR, RB, S), Lance Richardson (CB, WR) and Grady Welk (DL, OL). Also returning are juniors Jaden Harness (RB, LB), Chase Humphreys (LB, WR), Cergio Santiago (OL, DL), Ryan Atkinson (WR, DL) and Jacob Ayres (WR, S) and sophomore Wade Peters (WR, CB).
Sayler is looking at sophomore Heath Richardson to take over duties at quarterback.
“We have some inexperience at the quarterback position,” said Sayler. “But, [we] have had solid play all summer in that spot.”
Sayler set the team goals in four different levels.
“Our goals are to win the Bacon Bowl [vs. Delphi], go 1-0 every week and be playing for the conference and sectional championships at the end of the season,” Sayler explained.
Sayler’s goals could be realistic, but he knows that there will be challenges in both the conference and sectional.
“Eastern, Sheridan and Delphi would have to be the [HHC] front runners after the year they had last year,” Sayler said. “We would like to think we have made some improvements from last year and are in the conversation at the end of the season.”
Delphi is new to the HHC this year, which means the Bacon Bowl carries even more weight.
As for Class A Sectional 42, there will be a new champion. Pioneer, which won the Class A state title in 2017 and again in 2018, was moved to Class 2A under the IHSAA’s success factor.
“Sectional 42 has had some great teams in the last few years,” Sayler said. “I would have to think that Lafayette Central Catholic, Clinton Central and Traders Point Christian would be the favorites. We feel like we could be one of those teams if we can stay healthy and keep progressing as the season moves along.”
The Trojans went 2-8 overall and 2-4 in the HHC in 2018.
“We have made a major focus on strength, conditioning, physicality and most of all team unity,” second-year coach Shane Arnold said. “We had 25-plus in the weight room and 35-plus on core days all summer long.
“Last year, we were young and lacked experience, and we also had a first-year head coach and a first-year system. This year, we return a lot of kids and experience. We are bigger, faster and stronger. We think and play like a team.”
Seniors Aiden Arnold (T, DT), Jack Blades (C, N), Ethan Mason (RB, LB) and Braxton Young (RB, DB) lead the Trojans’ returning group. Also back are juniors Connor Hyman (T, DT), Holden Rayl (RB, OLB), Dietrich Johnson (TE, OLB), Cameron Cooper (TE, LB), Detlef Burke (WR, DB), Preston Vann (WR, DB), Mason Pickens (QB, S), Chandler Vanosdol (K), Gavin Helvey (G, DT) and sophomores Ross Cassidy (G, DT), Clayton Ramsey (RB, LB) and Caden Leininger (WR, DB).
Arnold is looking for the Trojans to play and act with sportsmanship in mind.
“Represent our school, community and team with honor and class,” he said. “Win or lose be humble and respect the game, and all that goes with it. We are striving for a winning season, to compete at a high level and to be extremely physical.”
Arnold sees the HHC as solid from top to bottom.
“I believe any team could win our conference this year. Each team presents different challenges for different teams and all of the teams are extremely well-coached,” he said. “Sheridan, Eastern and Delphi are all ranked in the preseason poll so you could say they are the early favorites.”
As for Class A Sectional 43, Arnold believes that Monroe Central and South Adams will be favorites again this year.
“I truly believe our sectional is tough from top to bottom,” Arnold added. “Monroe Central and South Adams have to be the early favorites being ranked in the preseason poll, and having such solid coaching and tradition.”
Last year wasn’t kind at all for Romison Saint-Louis in his first year as Peru’s coach as the Tigers went 0-10 overall and 0-4 in the TRC. Saint-Louis is hoping for better days in his second year.
“Year two is always better then year one,” Saint-Louis said. “We have had a good summer on the field and in the weight room. Our players are more familiar with me, my coaching style and our schemes. We are getting more buy-in to the culture we are trying to create here in Peru.
“Last year’s group was a good group, [but] we were young and inexperienced. [I am] looking forward to our players competing this fall.”
Saint-Louis has a simple goal.
“Come to work and get better every day,” he said.
With that goal in mind, Saint-Louis believes that the Tigers can compete in the TRC’s South Division and the conference overall.
“I love our conference and believe any of the teams can compete to be at the top,” he said. “I firmly believe the Peru Tigers can compete for a top spot in the TRC.”
Even though Peru stays in Class 3A Sectional 27, the Tigers will be facing a new crop of opponents. Sectional 27 now consists of Peru, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Bellmont, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Heritage, Norwell and Oak Hill.
“I think we have a pretty competitive [sectional],” Saint-Louis said. “There are some teams that I am not familiar with, but with the group we have, I do believe we have a shot to compete in our sectional.”
Returning players for Peru are seniors Andrew Caldwell (OL, DL), Chase Tyler (OL, DL), Corbin Robison (OL, DL) and Michael Chandler (QB, DB); juniors Draven Waters (OL, DL), Sam Makowski (OL, DL), Dakota Scarlett (RB, DB), Zane Ramirez (RB, DB) and Zach Johnson (K); and sophomores Brayden Masters (RB, LB) and Matt Ross (WR, LB).