WOODSFIELD - Jay Circosta has faced many rebuilding jobs during his long and illustrious career, but the one the winningest coach in OVAC history faces this fall may be his most challenging yet.
Monroe Central only lost six seniors to graduation, but they were pretty good ones. Picking up diplomas were Tyler and Tyrone Kinchen, Kole Hogue, C.J. Wise, Jonathan Eddy and Jim Baker. Add in the loss of Jacob Black, who decided not to come out this year, and the Seminoles have some challenges ahead.
''We lost four starters, and four darn good ones,'' said Circosta, entering his 42nd season on the Monroe Central-Woodsfield sideline.
''We lost Tyler and that takes away about 2,000 yards out of your offense. And then, both he and Kole have been two of our three linebackers since they were freshmen.
''That leaves some big holes.''
But the cupboard is certainly not bare as the Seminoles begin their quest for a fourth consecutive Ohio playoff berth with a 133-mile trip to Waterloo on Friday night.
''We return six starters on both sides of the ball,'' Circosta pointed out. ''We do have a good nucleus with 15 letterwinners back.''
Actually, Wise is the only loss off the offensive front.
Senior Chandler Carothers (5-foot-5, 189) returns at center, while seniors Josh Guiler (6-0, 170 pounds) and Camden Hill (5-9, 191) return at the guards. Senior Dylan Shapley (5-10, 185) is back at tackle.
''The last two or three years it seemed like were scrambling to find linemen,'' Circosta said. ''This year, we probably have more linemen than backs.''
With Tyler Kinchen no longer behind center, Circosta has turned to senior Korey Lafferre (5-9, 165), a receiver last year, to fill the void.
''I hated to do that,'' Circosta said, ''but if you put one of your better athletes out wide then you only get him the ball a few times a game and I don't think you're getting the most out of him.''
Circosta said Lafferre showed promise as a backup quarterback earlier in his career.
''I'm really pleased with the way he's progressed so far,'' he said. ''He's starting to read defenses pretty well.
''He will be able to run and throw the ball. He won't be the bruising runner Tyler was, but we hope we can utilize his speed.''
If Lafferre isn't running the ball, chances are junior Curtis Nixon (6-0, 170) or sophomore Levi Brown (5-4, 142) will be. Nixon rushed for 268 yards and three touchdowns a year ago.
Junior Jake Sherman (5-10, 182) and sophomore Chase Carothers (5-8, 140) could also get some reps at running back.
Circosta has a plethora of candidates at receiver. They include seniors Cameron Jorris (5-8, 125), Aaron Sanger (5-10, 150) and Derek Stephens (5-10, 155), as well as junior Bryan Duffy (5-10, 130).
''That's one of main concerns is shoring up the guys at receiver,'' Circosta said.
''And the key, and this is always the key, you have to stay healthy. We don't have an abundance of backs after Curtis and Levi. It gets pretty slim.''
Sherman returns to one of the line backing positions.
''We have to find a few more,'' Circosta said.
In the mix are Hill, senior Zac Potts (5-8, 165), and juniors Mike Jones (5-10, 157), John Kemp (5-10, 158) and Cordell Gauding (5-10, 164).
The Seminoles have some experience at middle guard with Hill and Potts.
Shapley returns at defensive tackle and Guiler is back at defensive end. Junior Eric Ward is the other defensive end.
The secondary is solid with Brown, Lafferre, Nixon and Stephens.
''Linebacker and at least one down lineman are our greatest concerns defensively,'' Circosta said.
Circosta is assisted by David Schuerman, Greg Schumacher, Andy Schumacher, Michael Jorris, Josh Ischy and Jon Perkins.