CALDWELL - Caldwell coach Josh Perkins would like to see the Redskins do a better job of finishing during the 2012 season.
On the way to a 4-6 record last fall, the Noble County School led or was within one touchdown of three opponents entering the fourth quarter but could not close the deal.
''At Monroe Central, we were down 12-6 and lost 41-14. Against Wheeling Central, it was a 20-13 after we had five turnovers during the first three quarters and we ended up losing 34-13. In the Harrison Central game, we went into the fourth quarter with a two-touchdown lead and drivng for a third score but we couldn't get it,'' Perkins explained.
The end result was a 43-33 defeat at the hands of the Huskies, who where helped out when the Redskins turned the ball over a couple times and the special teams failed to recover an onside kick.
''We'll never know what could have been,'' Perkins continued. ''This year during the preseason we are doing a lot more hitting and stressing conditioning. We have to be able to play four quarters and win all three aspects of the game (offense, defense and special teams). Most of all we need to finish when we have a chance to win.''
Part of the problem was dealing with injuries to four key players throughout the season.
''I think that motivated some of the guys coming back to work harder in the weight room. These kids understand what needs to be done,'' a pleased Perkins pointed out.
Despite the loss of 10 seniors, including All-Distrct, All-OVAC and All-PVC stalwart Adam Rossiter, who rushed for 1,450 yards and 18 touchdowns, Caldwell returns nine starters and seven other letterwinners.
Two-year starters back in uniform are John Carpenter, a defensive back ticketed to replace graduated quarterback Jensen Croucher; running back Kale Rayner and two-way lineman Alexi Cubas. Carpenter (6-foot, 170 pounds) and Rayner (5-9, 190) are seniors while Cubas (5-11, 225) is a junior.
Other returning first-teamers include three other seniors: two-way tackle Brian Magorien (6-4, 270), running back-linebacker Caleb Van Meter (5-7, 175); and tight end-linebacker Chance Stoffel (6-1, 200), along with juniors Justin Hardesty (5-10, 160); Andrew Minosky (5-9, 155) and Austin Schockling (6-1, 240). Stoffel was battling an injury during the preseason and Perkins wasn't sure when he would available to play.
Big things are expected of Minosky, an up-and-coming receiver who could see time at running back as well this season.
''He reminds of the (Gino) Bianconi kid from Wheeling Central because of his explosiveness. Andrew has a chance of becoming that kind of player for us,'' Perkins related.
Caldwell's other returning lettermen are seniors Derick Allen (6-0, 200), Jared Leasure (6-0, 200); Michael Shuster (6-1, 350) and Tyler Willey (5-145), plus juniors Zach Miller (6-2, 215), Kam Rayner (5-10, 160) and sophomore Tyson Cartell (6-1, 195).
''We're pretty deep with our skill kids, but finding that mix on the offensive line will be a key. If you don't win in the trenches, it can be a rough season,'' Perkins said.
Perkins also expects the Redskins to be much iumproved defensively.
''It wasn't about effort on defense last year. It was about mental errors from young pups that were sophomores,'' he said. ''They're a little more experienced and ready to step up this time.''
Along with having to replace Rossiter in the backfield, Caldwell also enters the new season without quarterback Croucher, a solid two-way threat. Croucher rushed for 613 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in the run-oriented offense and completed a shade less than 50 percent of his passes (46 of 96) for 684 yards and eight more scores. He threw four interceptions.
However, Perkins is counting on Carpenter's athleticism and instincts to fill that role in 2012. Minosky could be used as an emergency backup as just three freshmen are listed on the depth chart as quarterbacks. They are Tanner Clark (6-0, 160), Austin Mettler (5-5, 120) and Jack Ridenour (5-8, 150).
Kale Rayner, Van Meter, Minosky and Hardesty are the top running backs. Freshmen hopefuls are Michael Haga (5-7, 150), David Ivey (5-11, 175), Bricker Lori (5-9, 175) and Kolby Rayner (5-6, 120).
The slot receivers and wideouts include Minosky, Kam Rayner, Williey and promising sophomore Tanner Baker (6-3, 170).
Others on the list are junior Alex Gregg (5-11, 155); sophomores Jaden Border (5-10, 140), Gunner Petry (5-9, 140) and freshmen Caleb Heller (6-1, 150), Dalton Johnson (5-5, 130) and Jordan Minks (5-7, 140).
Baker also could step inside and play tight end depending on Stoffel's health. Leasure is another potential starter at tight end.
Magorien, who Perkins insists has all the tools to be outstanding on both sides of the ball, Schockling and Cartell head the list at the tackle spots. Guards are Cubas, Allen, junior Tyler Oakley (5-10, 215) and sohomore Jamison Ackley.
Miller is the center, with Ackley also available to take over ball-snapping duties.
Rounding out the list of offensive linemen are Schuster, juniors Brandon Delancey (6-0, 155) and Andy Lori (5-11, 170); sophomores Austin Guiler (5-10, 150), Christian Guy (5-11, 190) and Aaron Powers (5-8, 170); freshmen Austin Cobb (5-11, 170), Trevor Oakley (5-6, 200), Clay Poling (5-10, 200); Chance Rucker (6-1, 220) and Damien Stack (5-9, 200).
Caldwell utilizes a multiple defense, relying sometimes on the 4-6 alignment that Buddy Ryan employed with 1985 the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.
''While we are not a big blitz team, we get after people and apply pressure other ways,'' Perkins said.
The Redskins also run a lot of players in and out of the defense. Leasure, Stoffel, Van Meter, Kam Rayner, Baker and Cartell are the ends. Allen Magorian, Shuster, Shockling are the tackles, although one or two of the outside guys can move inside as well.
Heading the linebackers are Kale Rayner, Cubas, Hardesty, Tyler Oakley and Cobb. The secondary should include some combination of Carpenter, Willey, Minosky, Border, Petry, Clark and Heller.
Other members of the 2011 Caldwell senior class were wide receivers Tyler Abrams, Darrin Hesson, Tyler Danford and Jeremy Border; linemen Cole Haas, Aaron Hardesty, Brian Sawyer and. Tim Schenkel. Sawyer also was a first team All-PVC, All-OVAC and an all-district player.
With just four home games this year, the Redskins will open the season on the road against Newcomerstown on Friday night.
''Our schedule is brutal,'' Perkins noted. ''We play Wheeling Central, the West Virginia state champions, Monroe Central, Barnesville and River. Everybody laughs at the Pioneer Valley Conference but our league has history. If you win the PVC, you can make a run in the playoffs.
''That's our No. 1 goal. Find a way to win the PVC and everything else that happens after that is usually good.''
This is year No. 2 of a second tenure for Perkins at Caldwell. Overall, the Muskingum College product has coached five seasons at this high school alma mater, compiling a record of 17-31.
Assistant coaches are Andy Biddinger, Levi Cartell, Brandon Crock, Ryan Crock, Jerry Hamilton, Roman Lori and Shane Rucker.