The Ohio high school football season opens Thursday. Newcomerstown is the first Tuscarawas County school on the board. The Trojans play at Shenandoah.
We talked to high school football coaches in Tuscarawas County to get ready for the season. You can watch Sports Director Willie Grove’s interviews with Dover’s Dan Ifft https://youtu.be/abmzzEJvvio and New Philadelphia’s Mike Johnson https://youtu.be/b1K1ZwP59Jw on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Here is what we learned from talking to the rest of the county’s high school football coaches.
Newcomerstown – Dirk Gadd
The Ohio high school football season starts this week, and Newcomerstown has one of the first games on the schedule. The Trojans open Thursday night on the road against Shenandoah. Coach Dirk Gadd says they’ll be tested.
“They have a pretty physical football team, a pretty veteran football team. They have somewhere between 18 and 20 seniors, so they have a lot of experience. They always have a physical football team, so that will be a good test for us right away.”
Newcomerstown has been one of the teams hardest hit by COVID absences and quarantines. The Trojans have only played 15 games over the past two seasons. The lack of consistent practice and game time showed up in the results, with only two wins in two years, but Gadd says they’re ready for this season.
“We’re looking forward to playing a full 10-game schedule. I have a very athletic football team. The kids have put a lot of work in the offseason in the weight room. We get stronger every season. Every season when the kids come back, they’re ahead of where we were the year before. We plan on playing all 10 this year, and our goal is actually to be playing in Week 11.”
Newcomerstown returns several players with varsity experience, including three All-IVC players from last season – David Newkirk, Brandon Weber, and Bunk Millender.
Newcomerstown is celebrating the football program’s 100th year. Special activities are planned for the Aug. 26 home opener against Bealsville.
“Our schedule is set up for success. We play in the Inter Valley Conference, and that’s always good, quality football, so we have our work cut out for us, but we fell like we can definitely compete this year.”
Tusky Valley – Greg Dickerhoof
The group of seniors on Tusky Valley’s football team will be the first that fourth-year coach Greg Dickerhoof has led through their entire high school career.
“It’s exciting just to watch those kids that we saw as freshmen on the field turn into the senior leaders that we have now.”
The Trojans open Friday at home against Waynesdale, a 6-6 team last year that handled the 1-9 Trojans.
“[They’re] always a good program, always got some big kids running around the football field. They’ll hit you. They’ll play hardnosed football, and we’ve got to be a sound, fundamental football team that executes if we want to win.”
Tusky valley has some returning players that can make them exciting to watch, including quarterback Cole Clements and senior captains Drew Congdon, Logan Postlethwait, Ben Brideweser, and Beau Wolf.
Tusky Valley has a meatgrinder of a schedule, with seven playoff teams from last year. They do have two home games with the potential to be explosive – Tuslaw Sept. 2 and Tuscarawas Central Catholic Sept. 16. The last time the Trojans hosted those teams they scored 48 and 46 points.
Strasburg – Blake Campbell
Strasburg is in the smallest division in Ohio high school football, and new coach Blake Campbell says that was apparent toward the end of last season as injuries and absences mounted.
“Last year I believe they ended the season Week 10 with 12 players.”
Campbell says everyone is working hard this fall to keep the roster populated after 15 players showed up to the initial practice.
“The kids came together, and we sat down and talked about where the program was at and what we needed to be to safely and competitively field a team. The kids went out and recruited their butts off, and we doubled that to get to about 27.”
Campbell has coached for 13 years prior to coming to Strasburg, most recently at Tallmadge, but this is his first head coaching job.
“I’ve got experienced as a coordinator on both sides of the ball, and I’m just excited to get down here and get started.”
Strasburg has a lot of young players and new recruits, including a freshman quarterback, but the Mustangs do return some key contributors, including All-IVC First-Teamer Matt Cox.
Strasburg opens the season at home Friday against Rittman, another team looking to rebound from a rough 2021 season with a new head coach.
Claymont – Eric Henry
Claymont’s football team enjoyed an offseason in the school district’s new weight room and are looking forward to the second year in a new stadium. Coach Eric Henry says that’s having a positive impact on the program.
“We’re certainly blessed with our new facilities… Kids are proud of the new stadium and everything that’s going on. We got some more kids to come out. The kids are taking some accountability and pride in the program.”
The Mustangs won two games last year after going winless the previous two seasons, but Henry knows they still have to earn respect. To help do that, Claymont has quarterback Grady Mooneyham and receiver Alec Terakedis. Both proved their speed and athleticism by qualifying for the state track meet in the spring. Mooneyham was seventh in the 300 hurdles and Terakedis was 15th in the 100 meter dash.
The Mustangs open the season Friday at home against Harrison Central.
“They’re very big. They have an experienced offensive line up front. They got a big guy at tailback, a sophomore, who’s also their inside linebacker, and a returning quarterback. They’re pretty good. They’re like us. They got a lot of guys going both ways, so it should certainly be a good game.”
Indian Valley – Matt Lancaster
Indian Valley football is traditionally known to complement its staunch defense with a consistent run game. Coach Matt Lancaster says maybe don’t get used to that this season.
“I think people will be a little bit surprised at us offensively this year. We’re trying to be a little bit more dynamic. We feel we’ve got some skill that we can utilize in space, and we’ve got good speed, so we’ll probably put it in the air a little bit more than people are used to at Indian Valley.”
Many skill players are back from last year’s 7-3 team that won a playoff game. Eight starters are back on the Braves’ defense, led by Remmington Myers.
Indian Valley opens at home Friday against Beaver Local. The Braves beat the Beavers 37-26 last year.
“They’ve got most of their team back from last year, and they gave us fits last year. They’re very good. Their quarterback looks tremendous on film, and this year he’s adding a dimension with his feet, so they’re going to be tough to defend. They have a back/wide receiver who was in four state track events that’s just a burner. They’ve got weapons across the board. Their defense is stout, so it’s going to be a very, very good test to start the season off.”
Garaway – Jason Wallick
Garaway had a record year on the gridiron last season, and this season could be even better.
The 2021 Pirates didn’t lose a game until a three-point loss to South Range in the Division V regional semifinal.
Just about everybody is back, including quarterback Logan Yoder, runningback Ethan Miller, and IVC player of the year defensive end Jarrett Wallick. Coach Jason Wallick says this could be the year they move past the sweet 16, where they’ve been eliminated the last three seasons.
“They’re self-motivated to make it further than any school has made it here. And we’ve got that chance if we can stay healthy and have a couple of things go our way. Who knows what can happen?”
Nine defensive starters return, including Garaway career interception leader Brady Roden and Jarett Wallick.
The defense only allowed 56 points all last season, another school record. Coach Wallick says they want to beat that, but it won’t be easy.
“Our schedule is pretty tough, especially at the beginning with Bellaire, Dalton, and Carrollton. You’ve got three playoff teams there. You still throw in Ridgewood, Indian Valley, Sandy Valley. Just the IVC is pretty tough. Our goal is to break that record without a doubt.”
The opener against Bellaire is a Saturday game on the road with a noon start.
“It will be a great atmosphere for our kids to play in and a really good playoff team from last year, so it will be a big challenge for us.”
Tuscarawas Central Catholic – Casey Cummings
The football schedule lines up pretty nicely for the Tuscarawas Central Catholic Saints this year. Coach Casey Cummings says last season’s was a bear, with playoff teams from a couple divisions above the D-7 Saints, leading to a 3-7 record.
“As a matter of fact, the last two years, we had good football teams, and we just got thrown into the gauntlet. The schedule has been our biggest nemesis the last couple of years.”
It’s all D-6 and D-7 schools, plus Wheeling Central Catholic out of West Virginia, this season for TCC and its 23-man roster. That’s not many players, but cummings says they have size, height, and speed, led by second-year quarterback Jordan Cherry.
The opener is Friday at Fisher Catholic. Cherry threw for over 300 yards in that game last year, a win for the Saints.
“We sling it. We’re not afraid to throw the ball 30 or 40 times a night.”
Cummings thinks the late season games are going to mean something for the Saints this year.
“That Malvern game Week 9 – we hope that’s going to be for the marbles.”
TCC had a late addition to the schedule. In Week 4, Sept. 10, the Saints play the Montpelier Locomotives from the Toledo area at a neutral site – Clyde High School near Sandusky.
– Bill Hammerstrom, WJER Sports