BOWERSTON – Just three years ago the Conotton Valley School Board hired Ohio Hall of Fame Coach Don Hertler to help bring the Rockets’ football program into prominence.
A year after the schools’ second ever trip to the Ohio state playoffs Hertler and Conotton Valley is continuing to make progress as the team thrives.
The Rockets finished 11th in Division VII, Region 27 a season ago, dropping a first-round playoff decision at Waterford to cap off a 5-5 campaign.
“That was just our second playoff appearance since 1986, when I was an assistant coach at the school,” Hertler said. “The goal is to get back to the playoffs and get the school’s first-ever playoff win.”
Conotton Valley will utilize a pair of quarterbacks who both have starting experience in senior Evan Rice (5-11, 200) and sophomore Zach Putnam (5-8, 148). Senior Gaige Galigher (6-0, 210) will get the bulk of the carries at running back with sophomore Luke Smith (5-8, 135) and Rice also seeing playing time. Others available include senior Drake Mullins (5-8, 140) and junior Noah Smith (5-9, 170).
The receiving corps will consist of senior Damon Reardon (6-3, 160) and sophomore Brooks Bowers (5-9, 152) with senior Nolan Caldwell (5-7, 150) and freshman Kamden Wright (5-8, 138) also seeing playing time. Senior Dave Haney (6-5, 230) will be the tight end.
Returning senior tackles Ben Haney (6-4, 222) and Justin Lambert (6-0, 250) highlight the offensive line with senior Robert Myer (5-11, 220) and sophomore Logan Reiter (5-10, 200) at the guards and sophomore Zach Parker (6-0, 270) at center.
Lambert is penciled in as the punter with Reardon handling kickoffs.
The defensive line is led by Lambert, Ben Haney, Dave Haney and Myer with Reiter available while the linebackers will consist of Rice, Galigher, Mullins, sophomore Luke Smith (5-8, 135), Noah Smith and sophomore Camron Straight-Beitzel.
Reardon, Bowers, Caldwell, Putnam and Wright will make up the defensive backfield.
Gone from last year’s squad are Garson Imes, Bralon Novak, James Burleson, Brett Putnam and Collin White.
Assistant coaches include Tony Scott, Curtis Love, Chris Nighn, Mike Palmer and Derrick O’Hara.
“Our schedule starts out pretty challenging with games against playoff teams Tuslaw and Malvern, both good programs in division V and VI, before we start playing teams in the same situation as us with similar amounts of kids,” Hertler said. “At the end of the day we just want to continue to get better every week, be playing our best football at the end of the season, win an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship, make the playoffs and win a post-season game.
“To all of that we are going to have to get the most out of what we have and stay healthy. Our seniors need to play like seniors from game one and our younger kids need to grow up very quickly.
“We return 13 lettermen, and while we lost some very good seniors, we have a nice senior class. Our senior and sophomore classes are big, but as usual we are very limited with juniors.
“When we came in here we wanted to get tougher and the kids have accomplished that. The administration has been great, especially with hiring teachers who are coaches. We have begun building from the lower levels and are developing new traditions. The goal is to continue to build and let the excitement develop. These are good young men, both on and off the field, and developing consistency is very big for us.”