WOODSFIELD — When Monroe Central High coach Josh Ischy saw how many athletes had showed up for weight lifting in the spring, he figured the numbers would translate into a deeper Seminoles roster for his fourth season at the county seat.
Hoping to get upwards of at least 30 players, the former standout Mount Union College defensive back instead has 20 on hand at MCHS.
Advancing to the second-round of the D7 Region 27 playoffs a year ago, Ischy’s latest edition in Woodsfield is stocked with “a lot of experience at the skill positions, but we’re awfully young in the trenches.” Only one starters returns up front.
In a COVID-19 season of uncertainty a year ago, the ‘Noles finished 4-4 but had two post-season games with a strange twist.
A 46-6 win over Strasburg on the MCHS reservation was the school’s eighth post-season ‘W,’ but then COVID struck.
“My brother (assistant coach John Ischy) and I had to quarantine and coach from a car in the end zone after coming in close proximity to a former player earlier in the week,” the head coach explained. “What’s lost in that is we could’ve taken a forfeit but moved the game a day later because Strasburg was coming out of protocol. Our kids wanted to play. Practicing and planning was harder than the game.”
A week later, Ischy’s injury-riddled squad went to unbeaten regional finalist Trimble “with 15 dressed players and only 13 played” in a 47-26 loss despite a 20-all halftime score.
With an expanded OHSAA playoff system in place, the ‘Noles hope to appear in the Region 27 picture, starting their trek Friday at Memorial Park against D-IV Union Local.
Seven offensive starters return headed by elusive senior quarterback Malachi Rose-Burton (5-11, 175) after his fourth letter. Rose-Burton threw for 591 yards on 60 of 109 tosses with seven TDs, earning all-OVAC and all-District, but the ‘Noles QB kept many a drive alive with his feet, adding 759 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“(Malachi) does some special things for us, but we’re awfully young so we’ll rely on some young linemen early on,” noted Ischy, a former three-sport standout at MCHS.
Two other seniors back on offense are wide receivers Michael Bunning (5-7, 155), after his third letter, and Dillon Lincoln (5-8, 165), who was injured on the second series of the first game last year at UL.
Other seniors looking for vital roles this season are lineman Collin Kroll (5-9, 175) and corner Austin Yonak (5-10, 160).
Five juniors on the Seminoles’ roster are led by two-way letterman Jayke Vinskovich (5-10, 235), whom Ischy mentioned is “the grandson of former MCHS coach Jay Circosta.” He’ll be a fixture at defensive end and along the offensive front. “(Jayke) started every game for us a year ago and his experience will be invaluable along the line.”
At wide receiver is junior two-year letterman Xavier Kinney (5-10, 185), while Ischy has Terry Price (5-8,165), after his third letter, ready for defensive back duties.
Rounding out the 11th grade cast are interior linemen Aaron Fletcher (5-10, 235) and Travis Berry (6-0, 165), both expected to find roles on both sides of the ball.
The sophomore duo of receiver speedy Carter Knowlton (5-11, 165) and linebacker Landen Lydick (5-11, 210) are slated for starting assignments.
“We’re heavy at the skill positons so finding the right amount of help on the line may come from that group,” Ischy noted.
Monroe returns Rose-Burton behind center, Lydick as a back, and Bunning, Lincoln, Knowlton and Kinney as receivers.
“Aside from Vinskovich, we have a lot of questions on the line that’ll need answered quickly,” Itchy said.
The defensive backfield looks strong with Rose-Burton, Bunning, Price, Knowlton and Lincoln returning.
Central’s future appears brighter as eight freshmen are among the 20, which translates into a lot of learning on the job this season.
A lot of position switches between the tackles could occur with the size of Andrew Pickenpaugh (6-0, 225), Bill Kroll (5-8, 210), and Samual Comstock (5-11, 210) for the ‘Noles.
Fullback/linebacker Tucker Howell (5-11, 175), Ashten Vincent (5-11, 166), Blake Jennewein (5-7, 150), Ethan Gillespie (5-7, 145) and Logan Powell (5-8, 140) hope to contribute early.
Assistant coaches for Monroe Central’s 28th season, a consolidation of the old Skyvue and Woodsfield highs, are John Ischy, Brian Longwell, Curtis Nixon, Jonathon Calder and Marcus Schumacher. Graduation took eight seniors from the hilltop, including four-year stalwart Alex Kilburn. Also departed is Auston Hogue, four-year lineman Garet Cramer, John Peterson, Payton Robison, David Habig, Brian Meade and Cole McCammon.