Southern Looks to Continue Its Upward Trend
By CODY TOMER
SALINEVILLE–Improvement continues to be the main focus at Southern Local this season.
The last three years, the Indians have increased their win totals from two, to four and five last year.
In his fourth year as head coach, Rich Wright is hoping to increase the victory count again.
“We improved a lot of things last year,” Wright said. “Our defense got much better at tackling. My first two years here, we gave up over 28 points a game. We cut that in half last year to just 14 a game.
“It is my fourth year now and it’s time to get better. We have a young team but I feel we are in good position and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
The Indians improved on the offensive side of the ball, as well. They were hard to keep out of the end zone, averaging 30 points a contest.
A key part of the recent upgrade in Salineville was due to a strong group of 10 seniors, who will surely be missed.
“We lost a good senior class from last year,” Wright said. “But we have some kids coming back. We have a good junior class with some big players and we kept some players who scored touchdowns at the varsity level, so we feel good about that.
“The big thing will be replacing Will Grodhaus.”
Grodhaus was the team’s standout running back, who broke a school record of 2,042 rushing yards with 29 touchdowns on 175 carries in his senior campaign.
Grodhaus earned a spot on the Northeast Inland All-District football team and also represented the Ohio all-star team in the Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic.
Despite losing such a talented player out the backfield, Wright is excited for what is to come.
“We should be OK,” Wright said. “We are going to go with a four-back system.
“We’ll have junior Cam Grodhaus (Will’s cousin) at wingback, Dylan Milhoan at tailback and we were fortunate enough to get River Pappas from Edison. He was a three-year letterman there and will play fullback and inside linebacker here. He will help us a lot.
“We’ll also have junior Jayce Sloan at quarterback, who is a dual threat and is actually more dangerous running the ball. With Cam receiving, it will help keep us balanced.”
Cam Grodhaus turned in 228 rushing yards and two scores last year, while hauling in 10 touchdowns and 549 yards receiving.
Sloan played just five games last year as the signal caller but he made the most of his opportunity with 319 yards on the ground and 298 through the air.
“Jayce and Cam are going to be leaders for us this year,” Wright said.
Milhoan was also a threat a year ago as he compiled 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
Along with the speed and agility of the rushing attack, Southern Local will send a strong unit of linemen on the field this year.
“I think our overall team speed and our size up front will be our strengths this season,” Wright said. “We have 38 kids on the roster and for our school that is pretty good. Of those 38, 24 have played varsity football, so we should be competitive.”
The Indians return 22 letterman, including six starters on offense and seven starters on defense.
“We have eight returning letterman on the offensive line,” Wright said. “They are mostly juniors but they have all started games before.”
Along with Pappas, the Indians’ senior class consists of Nick Eastham, Austin Frischkorn, Kurtis Hawke and Austin Roberts.
Juniors looking to make an impact include Garrett Buxton, Latrell Crute, Gage Dickey, Brady Kellogg, Devin Lopez, John Powell, Mark Soukup, Dominic Walker and Kyle Young.
The sophomore and freshman classes have a combined seven players that include tenth graders Garrett Brewer, James Burris, Jaedon Madison, Hunter Morris and Josh Pratt, along with ninth graders Giovanni Estrada and Aydon Shuman.
The schedule that awaits the Indians will be no easy ride as they face off with five teams who reached the postseason a year ago.
“Our schedule is a little more difficult this year,” Wright said. “We start with Edison, River and Steubenville Central. We have more OVAC teams this year.
“We also have Toronto and Wellsville.
“We have a good league up here with teams like Lisbon and United on the schedule, too.