WOODSFIELD - Less is more may have to be the mantra for Monroe Central and its storied coach, Jay Circosta, as it embarks on the season. That's because in many key areas the Seminoles will be dealing with less than they had in 2012.
Let's start with numbers.
Playing in one of the smaller divisions in Ohio, Monroe will likely never field a team 60-plus strong on Friday nights. Yet, a strong tradition of winning generally dictated a roster with, at minimum, 40 kids, and sometimes more.
For 2013? Monroe will suit up 32 kids, including 11 freshmen.
The largest school in the Switzerland of Ohio School District lost 11 seniors from the 2012 squad in Chandler Carothers, Josh Guiler, Camden Hill, Cameron Jorris, Korey Lafferre, Logan Monahan, Zac Potts, Aaron Sanger, Dylan Shapley, Derek Stephens and Sam Temesvary.
Among that group are were starters and quite a few essential cogs.
That's bad enough. However, the losses don't end there.
Circosta noted that 11 players who were set to return for this season chose not to, a move that still has the coach, now nearing the midpoint of his fifth decade as a head coach, scratching his head. None of those returning 11 were starters, although some likely figured to be this season.
The coach did note that the decision didn't come down to a conflict with the district's new play-to-participate ruling that has athletes forced to pay $200 per sport to participate.
The support of the Monroe Central program is vast and enthusiastic and any potential Seminole that wanted to suit up would have been able to do so.
"Our biggest concern is we have only four starters back," Circosta said. "We have only one back on the line."
Compiling the numbers issue is the case of returning starter and senior Eric Ward. A 5-foot-10, 200-pound guard, Ward would have provided size and experience along the offensive and defensive fronts. Unfortunately, Ward had to undergo emergency surgery during the offseason and will be cheering on his teammates from the sideline this season.
He is recovering, which is the important thing. But his talents will be sorely missed.
It's reminiscent of the 2012 preseason when returning letterman Curtis Nixon, then a junior, suffered a season-ending knee injury that cost him his entire 2012-13 athletic career.
Nixon is healthy and back for 2013, but these injuries seem to be plaguing Monroe the last few years.
That's where "less" ends as far as the players are concerned. But not overall.
Monroe has featured one of the more consistent coaching staffs in the valley the last decade, with the same cast of faces dotting the sidelines. That consistency took a hit this offseason with the loss of three coaches.
Gone are Greg Schumacher, Andy Schumacher and Jon Perkins. Perkins was one of the unfortunate teachers in the county who lost his job thanks to the large swathe of budget cuts necessitated when the school levy failed to pass. The Schumachers opted not to return.
So that leaves longtime assistant and defensive guru Dave Schuerman, along with former Seminoles greats Michael Jorris and Josh Ischy as Circosta's assistants.
But the Noles will march on.
Circosta is 307-124-5 during his coaching tenure, including 154-54 at Monroe Central. He has guided his teams, starting with Woodsfield High, to 13 OVAC championships, 20 PVC titles, six undefeated seasons and 12 playoff appearances, including a memorable run to the state semifinals in 2001.
That kind of success breeds tradition, attitutude and pride, and Circosta, his staff and players aren't about to let a little adversity put a damper on their season or their plans for it.
Like last season, the Noles enter the campaign with a new and relatively untested quarterback in junior Zach Jorris (5-10, 145).
Jorris saw jayvee duty and some spot action late in varsity games as a sophomore, but now it's his turn to prove his Friday-night mettle.
He will be a contrast to the Seminoles' previous QBs: Derek-London Dierkes, Tyler Kinchen and most recently, Lafferre. All three were good passers but equally adept runners, allowing the Seminoles to take advantage of read-option and similar packages.
That's not to say Jorris will draw comparisons as the high-school version of the stone-footed Drew Bledsoe. He can run, but it's not going to be a major factor in the offensive gameplan, as it was for his predecessors.
Fortunately, Jorris will have the horses behind him to do the bulk of the running.
Nixon (6-2, 185) returns with a whole year to make up for after showing promise as a sophomore, logging 297 yards and seven TDs on 46 carries.
"He's moving well," Circosta aid. "He was only cleared to play at the end of May, but I've watched him at practice and playing basketball and he seems to be doing well. Hopefully he stays healthy."
He'll be joined by junior Levi Brown (5-4, 146), who is as quick as you'd expect someone of his stature to be. But Brown runs with the power and spirit of a 250-pound fullback, giving him a deadly combination of power, speed and precision.
He's sure to expand on his 571 yards on 78 carries as a sophomore.
The third horse in the backfield stable is Chase Carothers, a 5-7, 145-pound junior. Carothers finished with 253 yards and seven touchdowns, seeing his workload increase when Brown missed a few late games with an injury.
A converted lineman, senior Mike Jones (5-11, 166) showed promise as a junior at fullback and gives the Noles a viable lead blocker.
Given Monroe's penchant for running the football, the backfield is a great place to be blessed with experience.
Another bright spot seems to be the younger ponies behind them. Circosta is high on a pair of promising freshmen in Caden Nutter (5-10, 170) and Jarett Hooper (5-9, 161) and feels they will get a few carries to stretch their young legs in varsity action.
The key will be the five fellows up front in how well the talent in the backfield translates to yardage and points.
The absence of Ward means senior Marshall Mozena (5-11, 202) is the lone returning starter. He'll start at one tackle position.
The opposite tackle will be sophomore Justin Kilburn (5-10, 230). The guard positions will be senior Cordell Gauding (5-11, 161) and promising sophomore Tanner Potts (5-11, 240), although he could see time at center.
If not, the center position may fall to Colton Robinson (6-0, 272), a junior. Robinson has slimmed down from 300-plus as a sophomore and appears ready for action. Senior Hunter Conner (5-10, 222) will figure into the mix at either center or guard, depending on how the other spots play out.
Senior Jacob Chaplin (6-5, 241) and junior Adam Blackstone (5-10, 165) will also see time at guard, along with sizable freshman Ryan Reich (5-8, 253) at either guard or tackle. Also look for sophomore Tyler Wills (5-11, 198).
While the group overall is short on experience, Monroe does have a bigger offensive line than usual, which will be a bonus provided the group can come together.
"They always say a good running back can make and can create for himself, but hopefully we can do the job and make some room for them to run," Circosta said.
Returning starter Jake Schuermann (6-0, 180) is back for his senior campaign at tight end.
The receivers will be senior Bryan Duffy (5-11, 155) and junior Gavin Morton (6-4, 177), who provides Jorris a tall target on the perimeter or across the interior.
If the Noles go with a one-back or empty set, Nixon and Brown are both viable options for pass-catching duties.
Another option at either back or receiver will be sophomore Joe Schumacher (5-10, 150).
Defensively, the secondary figures to be the strongsuit as that is where the bulk of the experience can be found. Brown and Carothers will man the corner positions with Nixon and Duffy at safety.
Jones and Schuermann will handle the linebacking duties.
Defensive end is a question mark, however, and Schuermann could be moved up front if Circosta can find another to fill his spot on the second level effectively.
Gauding, Morton or Blackstone will be called upon to fill the void left with the graduation of Guiler, one of the Noles' better defenders in some time.
Mozena, Kilburn or Conner will handle one tackle position while Chaplan or Wills will man the other.
Nose figures to be either Potts or Robinson.
Brown performed admirably as the team's punter last season and either he or Potts will handle the job this season. Potts displayed a strong leg as a freshman in Brown's absence.
Kicker is a question mark, although Nixon has shown to be the most consistent for extra points. Field goals likely will be out of the question.
"I told the guys to prepare to go for two a lot," Circosta said jokingly.
Monroe opens the season at home against the lone newcomer to the schedule, Union Local. It's the first meeting between the schools, but given the proximity, could develop into a nice rivalry.
That will be followed by the annual early season test against Shadyside, followed by the first of two road games at River and then Caldwell. Another key stretch will be Weeks 5 and 6, featuring a home date against Fort Frye and a road matchup with perennial power Magnolia.
Last season, sickness and a talented Fort Frye club jumped up and bit a surprised Monroe team, 27-0, at Beverly. Home games vs. Shenandoah and Frontier, along with road trips to Barnesville and the regular-season finale at Buckeye Trail round out the campaign.
Jacob Chaplin, Hunter Conner, Bryan Duffy, Cordell Gauding, David Greene, Mike Jones, Marshall Mozena, Curtis Nixon, Jake Schuerman, Eric Ward, Tyler Willis.
Adam Blackstone, Levi Brown, Chase Carothers, Zach Jorris, Gavin Morton, Colton Robinson.
Justin Kilburn, Dalton Lincoln, Matt Lucas, Tanner Potts, Joe Schumacher.
Keith Bable, Matt Deskins, Trey Duffy, Tyler Hines, Jarett Hooper, Gene Nalley, Caden Nutter, Bobby O'Donnell, Anthony Pirl, Ryan Reich, Zach Siegal.