BOWERSTON — Expectations and excitement levels are high at Conotton Valley entering the second year under Ohio Hall-of-Fame Coach Don Hertler, but the Rockets, who have nine back on offense and 10 on defense are still going to need to prove themselves on the football field.
Conotton Valley had only its second winning season in 25 years in 2020, finishing off a 5-4 campaign, but will still be looking for the school’s potential first ever playoff victory in 2021.
Back to lead the offense will be junior quarterback Evan Rice (5-11, 185) with a good pair of running mates in senior Maddox Walter (5-11, 198) and fullback Garson Imes (5-10, 183). More than capable wide receivers will be seniors Brett Putnam (5-7, 152) and James Burleson (5-4, 142) with junior Gaige Galigher (5-10, 195) at tight end.
The offensive line is also in good shape with the return of seniors Colin White (5-6, 264) and Braylen Novak (5-8, 206) and juniors Justin Lambert (5-11, 240), Robert Myer (5-9, 216) and Ben Haney (6-3, 217).
Others available on offense are senior Caleb Peterson and junior Drake Mullins (5-6, 137) at running back; juniors Damon Reardon (6-2, 160) and Nolan Caldwell (5-6, 138) at wide receiver; junior David Haney (6-4, 219) at tight end and seniors Gavin Booth (5-6, 199) and Ethan Roach (5-5, 294) and sophomore Charles Decker on the line.
Ben Haney and Dave Haney lead the defensive front with Walter, White and Novak both on the line as well while Imes, Mullins and Rice at linebacker and Burleson, Brett Putnam and Caldwell in the defensive backfield.
Depth will be provided by Peterson and Reardon at defensive back; Galigher at linebacker and Decker, Booth, Myer and Roach on the front wall.
A promising group of freshmen include Ryan Bagby (5-7, 154), Justin Miller (5-8, 118), Luke Smith, Camron Straight (5-3, 177), Brooks Bower (5-7, 144), Justin Chaney (6-1, 238), Logan Reiter (5-10, 212), Zack Parker (6-0, 294) and Hunter McLaughlin (5-10, 266).
“The bottom line is that we have an awful lot of experience, but very little depth,” Hertler added. “The older kids are doing a great job getting the younger kids to buy in, but that has to continue. Our biggest goal is going to be 1-0 every week, that is what we need to be most concerned with.
“Getting better every week, being physical, blending together as a team and playing our best football at the end of the season are going to be musts as well. We are going to have to continually play together and play hard at all times.”
Conotton Valley opens the season Friday night at home against rival Strasburg, a team that they have not beaten in 12 years.