Nowhere to Go But Up for Warren
By RON JOHNSTON
VINCENT — On the third day of Warren football practice, the United States Marine Corps visited the campus and provided some training tips for the players.
“Everybody was up at 7 a.m. and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” first-year Warriors coach Dan Day said. “It was just awesome having those guys there, talking about teamwork and accountability.”
If Warren has a gung-ho or Semper Fi attitude when it kicks of the season at Athens High in The Plains on Friday, that first Wednesday in August might be part of the reason why.
Warren is coming off a winless campaign (0-10) in 2017. So, one victory on the gridiron this upcoming fall would be an improvement over last season. The Warriors, of course, will be seeking more than that. And, who knows, maybe the Warriors can boast the school’s first varsity winner since 2009 when the team went 7-3.
But all of that is down the road. Right now, there’s lots and lots of work to be done on both sides of the ball.
When Warren first stepped on the practice field on July 30, 51 Warriors answered the bell. The numbers are decent but of course a coach always wants to work with more.
In the early going, Day, who succeeded Tim Carver at the helm, has been very impressed with the work ethic of his Warriors team.
“I couldn’t be happier with how hard these boys work,” he said. “They’re answering the challenge, learning a new offense and defense. They’re doing a good job, and I’m very pleased with where we’re at.”
Before the season kicks off in earnest Aug. 24, Day will have to make a decision as to who will be taking center snaps. Right now, the coach has two good quarterbacks in junior Brandon Simoniette and sophomore Kurt Taylor.
Simoniette is a transfer from Belpre High and has varsity experience at the QB position as a Golden Eagle.
Taylor, on the other hand, is tall and lanky with a strong arm. He also has an impressive pedigree. (His father Shawn is a former quarterback at both Warren and Marietta College.)
Both Simoniette and Taylor got an opportunity to showcase their signal-calling talents in multiple formations in preseason scrimmages, which began Aug. 7 against visiting Philo. Their primary receiving targets are expected to be Clay Miller, Evan Gandee, and Brett Gandee.
Day, of course, like any football coach, is hoping for a balanced attack on offense. But at the prep level, to be successful, a team had better have a good running game.
Well, the first-year Warren boss believes that his backfield is one of the strengths of the team.
“We do have some good running backs,” Day said.
Senior RB Tyler Schafer figures to get his fair share of touches. Last year, when standout Cole Riffle, a 1,000-yard-plus ballcarrier the previous fall, went down with a season-ending injury, Schafer pretty much was the Warriors’ go-to guy in the backfield.
Also getting carries will be senior Landon Wigal and sophomore Brock Bowen. Wigal, a pole vaulter on the track team in the spring, is also being looked at as a punter.
Another key to any football team’s success is both the offensive and defensive line. While Warren will still have some two-way players, Day is hoping to platoon the two lines.
“The lines can make or break us,” Day said.
On offense, look for Tim Seevers and Bryce Heitman at the tackle spots; Wyatt Grayson and Cullen Bunner, as guards; and Nate Warner, at center.
Defensively, Warren is planning to be in a 3-4 alignment with Seevers, Michael Lynch or Trevor Pettey, at the ends and Gabe Venham at noseguard.
The linebackers are expected to be Dylan Keffe (middle), Schafer (inside), Wigal (outside), and either Josh Welch or Garrett Miller (outside).
In the secondary, Evan Gandee and Simonette will be at the corners; and Thomas Miller, one of the safeties.
Warren’s kicking game will probably be featuring Ethan Yost (place) and Wigal (punt).
“You know, we just want to bring back the fun to football here,” Day said.