KIDWELL – Coming off a COVID-shortened 2020 season in which his team dropped six out of eight contests, Tyler Consolidated Head Coach Ryan Walton is ready for his Silver Knights to get back on the field in what he hopes will be a turn-around campaign.
Walton, who enters his eighth season at the helm, welcomes back eight starters on offense and five on defense, with both the offensive and defensive fronts strong points for his squad.
“We are going to have to lean hard on our lines on both sides of the football,” Walton commented. “As long as we are able to stay healthy that should be a key area for us, but we also have a returning quarterback that knows the offense as well.”
That quarterback is junior Trenton Huffman, who started all eight games for the Knights last year. Another top cog in the offense will be senior Case Landis, who Walton calls “one of the most unselfish kids on the team and a real leader.” Landis returns at running back but will also see time on the offensive front. Junior Ty Walton will be the other running back and will be used primarily as a blocking back and to catch passes out of the backfield.
Seniors Weston Henderson and Caleb Strode will be the main receiving threats with classmates Ryan Fletcher and David Grimes leading the line. Junior Raustyn Wade and sophomores Shane Bates and Tyler Ferrell have also earned starting berths across the front. Junior Jayden Helmick, who sat out last year, will be a utility player that will spread around in the skill positions.
Junior Bruce Garuccio is also available on the line along with sophomore Heath Hemsley and freshmen Devon Babley, Gabriel Glover, Wesley Glover, Isaiah Miller, Tripp Perine and Briar Utt. Remaining skill position players include sophomore John Headley and freshmen Branson Winfrey and Brady Caedin at wide receiver; sophomore Sean Winfrey at running back and classmate Tristen Tuttle at tight end.
Defensively, Tyler Consolidated will be led on the wall by Landis and Strode at end and Fletcher and Grimes on the line with Bates and Ferrell also lending support. Walton is the leading returner at linebacker and will be joined by senior Ben Davis, Trenton Huffman and sophomore Kendall Huffman. Henderson, Helmick, sophomores Kendall Huffman, Kaden Huffman, Marques Jackson and Sage Landis and freshman Brady Strode will all see time in the defensive backfield.
Helmick and sophomore Landon Miller will both be involved in the kicking game.
Others available on defense include Hemsley, Bagley, Gabriel Glover, Wesley Glover, Perine and Utt on the defensive line; Tuttle, Sean Winfrey and Miller at linebacker and Rine and Branson Winfrey at defensive back.
The coaching staff, which includes four new additions, will include Rob Jones, Chris Metz, Matt Peters, Paden Morris, Zach Heasley, Slade Buchanan and Gary Hagerty.
“We have a quarterback with some experience, and we are going to look to spread the ball around a little more this year,” Ryan Walton added. “There are also good numbers with 32 kids on the roster and everybody excited about being here. The kids and the coaches are all learning together, and everything has been going very well so far.
“It’s all about staying healthy and showing up every day, getting better and playing fundamentally sound football. There are still things we need to work on, but I believe our experience from last year will be very valuable as the season goes along. We have some great senior leadership, and those kids are all willing to help the younger ones.
“Our schedule is also strong and loaded with gook Little Kanawha Conference teams. We are not going to be able to take any weeks off. And if we stay in the playoff hunt late, we have a couple of tough road contests at Valley and St. Marys at the end, two places that are never easy to play at.”