CAMBRIDGE - Kevin Gunn enjoyed his initial season as coach at Cambridge.
He guided his alma mater to a 6-4 finish against a rugged schedule, and although this season's schedule appears even more imposing, Gunn is finding smoother sailing in Year 2.
"It has definitely been easier this offseason and summer than a year ago," Gunn said. "Preparation and practices seem to fall in place much better. Plus, we know what to expect.
"I was happy with what the program accomplished last year. The kids made a positive transition in their first year under a new system."
Gunn is optimistic about his team's fortunes, buoyed by the return of 15 seniors, 23 lettermen and 12 starters. The Bobcats, however, face a daunting 10-game card.
The ECOL is demanding enough, with the likes of Dover and New Philadelphia, but the Bobcats must also tackle new foes John Glenn, Granville, Coshocton and Beaver Local.
"We have high expectations for this season," Gunn said. "We understand the challenges our schedule presents and we relish them.
"Our senior class has exhibited great leadership on and off the field. We need to stay focused and use a step-by-step process to get better."
Cambridge has an offense that possesses possible potency. It is a unit that blends superb speed with some gifted skilled performers.
Junior Caleb Tingle (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) returns at quarterback after handling himself very nicely as a sophomore. He is a dual threat, as he passed for more than 1,200 yards while rushing for another 500.
"Jay got better and better last season. He is primed for some big things," Gunn offered.
Tingle has the luxury of handing off to a thunder and lightning running back combo.
The thunder is provided by veteran fullback Ayden Howell (6-0 220), a rugged senior that is a load to bring down and is a superb blocker.
Ivan Gadson (5-6, 150) is the Bobcats' lightning. The senior speedster has the ability to score each time he touches the football.
Gunn has a trio of backs who provide quality relief. Seniors Michael Wildroudt (5-8, 165) and Coleman Burns (5-10, 185) and junior Moe Lathan (5-10, 170) all are experienced ballcarriers who all bring something different to the table.
You would be hard pressed to find an OVAC team with a better 1-2 tandem at tight end. The two-headed monster features seniors Logan Helmick (6-4, 225) and Clifford Clark (6-3, 205) and provide Tingle with two great-sized targets while also boasting the bulk to key the rushing attack.
Speed is the watchword at wideout.
Junior Errik Snell (5-10, 165) is the ultimate deep threat. The returning starter finished second in the OHSAA Division II state track meet in the 110-meter high hurdles last spring and will stretch opposing defenses.
Joining Snell in the receiving corp will be be a pair of battle-tested standouts in senior Zach Lewis (5-8, 150) and junior Riley Hayhurst (6-0, 160), both of whom saw extensive time last fall and should fit in well opposite Snell.
Seniors Levi Hamilton (5-11, 160) and Brandon Good (6-1, 150) are added insurance for the receiving corps.
The offensive line has a tradition of being big and physical at Cambridge. Nothing will change in that respect. With three returning starters up front, the Bobcats should be able to control the line of scrimmage.
The trio of returning regulars are all seniors: Matt Dalton (5-10, 250), massive Kordell Stage (6-4, 285) and Ricky Weber (5-10, 200). They are the nucleus of an outstanding front.
The remaining two slots will likely go to a pair bruising juniors in Brock Cline (6-0, 220) and Tyler Huffman (6-1, 200).
The Bobcats will rotate some linemen to keep them fresh. Making that possible are three more quality blockers in senior Cameron Goodwin (6-1, 205), junior Zac Ford (5-11, 245) and promising sophomore Tanner Eldredge (5-11, 215).
Gunn is a proponent of the 4-2-5 defense. The Bobcats have a chance to be a superb unit.
Good defenses must be able to stop the run first, so much of that burden falls on the line. The front four appear up for the task.
Helmick and Howell could be exceptional at ends. Burns and Ford will be the anchors in the middle at tackle.
They will be ably supported by Stage and Goodwin.
The two starting linebacker posts are in the capable claws of Clark and Wildroudt. Clark is in line for postseason honors.
Youth is being served in the understudy duty at linebacker as sophomores Joe Scruders (5-9, 180) and Josh Lewis (6-0, 185) will see time. A name to remember is Garth Charlton (6-0, 185), a freshman who Gunn believes will quickly work himself into the rotation.
The deep five has the makings of a suffocating unit. Experience, speed and athleticism will be roaming the secondary.
Gadson, Lewis, Snell and Hayhurst are all seasoned defensive backs. That quartet will be joined by another state track runnerup in senior Eric Fox (6-0, 175). Fox finished second in the pole vault at Jesse Owens Stadium last June.
Also in the mix are senior Jacob Schubert (5-10, 190), and junior Tone Turner (5-10, 160).
Fox also handles kicking chores.
Gunn is assisted by a veteran staff, including Tim Wilson. The former Shadyside standout previously served as Shenandoah's head coach. Rob Ferhman has instant coaching credibility as the former Meadowbrook star tight end excelled at Bowling Green before having a short stay in the NFL.
The remainder of the staff includes Eric Sholtis, Ben Lambes, Paul Fields, J.R. Fox, James Beatty, Tank Moore, Tony Starr and J.D. Demkewicz.
Cambridge staged preseason scrimmages with Indian Creek, Buckeye Local and Steubenville.
Coleman Bruns, Clifford Clark, Matt Dalton, Eric Fox, Ivan Gadson, Brandon Good, Cameron Goodwin, Levi Hamilton, Logan Helmick, Adam Howell, Zach Lewis, Jacob Schubert, Kordell Stage, Ricky Weber, Michael Wildroudt.
Brock Cline, Zac Ford, Riley Hayhurst, Tyler Huffman, Moe Lathan, Jack Robertson, Errik Snell, Caleb Tingle, Tone Turner, Tony Wildroudt, Kamron Wise.
Isaiah Abel, Austin Daniels, Gage Daymut, Perry Eldredge, Tanner Eldredge, Adam Fox, Hunter Hostutler, Josh Lewis, Chase McEndree, Jake Pershing, Joe Scrudders, Josh Schubert, Josh Seckman, Kevin Wallace, Brandon Welch, Austin Wharton.
Logan Ball, Chandler Blausenhaur, Garth Charlton, Zach Cole, Joey Eke, Rusty Hayhurst, Colton Jones, Marquis Hamilton, Blake High, Brendan Holdren, Austin Larrison, Alex Leeper, William Lowe, C.J. McCall, Jacob Milner, Tommy Moore, Jake Nico, Harrison Ogle, Tanner Snode, Nathan Snodgrass, Cody Wallace, Lewis Webb.