RICHMOND – The Edison football team took a big step forward last season, and now that the Wildcats’ have gotten a taste of success, the team is hoping to experience even more this season.
Last year, the Wildcats made the playoffs for the second straight season as the Silver-and-Black earned the No. 9 seed in Ohio Division V Region 17, however, Edison’s season came to a close thanks to a 50-0 defeat at the hands of No. 8 Manchester in the first round on the road ending Edison’s season at 7-4.
“Hopefully, they understand all the hard work the put in paid off,” second-year Edison head coach Mike Collopy said. “They worked hard, and we had a good season. Hopefully, that serves as motivation going into this season.
“Everything has been going really well leading up to this season from January when we started in the weight room through every phase of our offseason. We have accomplished a lot in the offseason, and our players have shown a lot of maturity.
“They have gotten a taste of it. Now, we just have to continue to work hard in order to take that next step.”
Coach Mike Collopy discusses the upcoming campaign
The Wildcats are looking to build off last season’s momentum as the prepare to get this season underway.
“I believe so,” Collopy said. “We had a challenging offseason. We challenged them in the weight room in January, and we challenged them with our summer conditioning. We have seen a lot of leadership from the guys. A lot of guys have come back, and they are more comfortable this season. The guys who have returned know what it takes to be successful.”
Edison wants to be a hard-nosed team.
“I think the most important thing about our football team is we want to identify as being a physical, aggressive and disciplined football team that plays hard,” Collopy said. “We have gotten good leadership, and I’m pleased with that. College coaches say, ‘it’s not meant to be hard, it just is.’ Our kids are pushing through.
“We have faced some adversity, and they have handled it. When you have to face adversity, your leadership and character are tested. Offensively and defensively we have made strides.”
To achieve that goal, Edison is going to have to rely on the guys up front on the offensive and defensive lines.
“Our offensive line and our defensive line are going to be key,” Collopy said. “Our offensive line specifically has gelled together. When you lose four starters, it is always a concern. We have a couple guys who started some last year due to injuries and whatnot. Last year, it was COVID. We had a couple of kids step up.
“Your offensive line needs to work together. They need to be able to communicate. They have to be on the same page.”
Defensively from what I have seen, the guys are building off of last year.”
Collopy also wants his players to be mentally tough.
The Wildcats currently have 54 players on the roster – 17 of which have earned at least one letter. The Wildcats return five starters on offense and eight on defense.
“We have 54 kids,” Collopy said. “We finished with 48 kids last year. We started out with 57, and now we are at 54. I’m confident all those guys will stick around. They have hung in through all of the work outs and all the things we have asked them to do. We have demanded a lot from them and they have kept coming back. We want to keep building. We know it is not easy.”
Though the Wildcats have yet to hold a scrimmage, Collopy is happy with how his team looks early on in the preseason.
“You can’t tell much right now. We do look good, but we will find out a lot when we play our scrimmages,” Collopy said. “Our scrimmages will tell us what we have to work on and what we have to improve.”
The five returning starters on the offensive side of the ball for the Wildcats are quarterback Gage Cline, running back Talan McClurg, center Isaac Firm, tight end Matt Parsons and wide receiver Decker Lancaster. McClurg is a junior, while the other four are all seniors.
Firm (defensive end), Parsons (linebacker), McClurg (linebacker) and Cline (cornerback) are all also returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. The other returning starters on defense are juniors Joey Simpson (defensive tackle), Chase McClurg (linebacker), Mason Eisnaugle (linebacker) and Dawson Jones (strong safety).
“At every position, we have guys who are very close,” Collopy said. “We have a lot of competition. Today was the first day we could hit. We are giving some guys some looks. Guys aren’t dropping their heads, they are competing. We have guys competing at many different positions. Competition is a good thing. Guys know they have to prove themselves every day. It doesn’t matter what you did in the past. Competition is best for everybody.”
Cline – a three-year lettermen – is coming off a successful season as the Wildcats signal caller. The Marshall recruit threw 1,408 yards and 16 touchdowns, while also rushing 124 times for 612 yards and 12 more touchdowns.
“They have come down to visit,” Collopy said. “He went to Marshall on a junior day visit. They are interested in him, but they haven’t made him an offer. I know Ashland is interested. Notre Dame College is interested in him. They have made him an offer. He is going to have opportunities. It is just going to be a question of what position they want him to play.”
Cline showed a good deal of improvement last season under the tutelage of first-year offensive coordinator Anthony Pierro.
“A big thing with quarterbacks is you want them to be able to lead,” Collopy said. “That is one skill you want them to have. You want them to have good leadership. One way you acquire that is by learning behind older guys, but he was thrust into everything as a freshman. He has had to learn as he goes. He has shown a lot of maturity and leadership.
“Coach Anthony Pierro has been really working hard with him. He has really grown.
“A lot of guys have grown. I am just as proud of them as I am of him. Guys grow up year to year. As they grow, they may not be the same kids as they were. They have seen the benefits of working hard. The kids are maturing.”
Freshman JD Henderson will serve as Cline’s backup.
Talan McClurg started seven games last season, and he ran the ball 141 times for 875 yards and five touchdowns.
Eisenaugle will back him up at running back as will senior T’Kai Jett and freshman Hayden Russell.
Junior Lane Waggoner will be the team’s starting fullback, and he will be backed up by freshman Matt Evans.
The trio of juniors Avante’ Hayes and Deacon Rawson and sophomore Zack Vangosen will join Lancaster as starting wide receivers. Senior Luke Taylor and Chase McClurg will be the backups at receiver.
Fellow senior Preston Davis will back up Parsons at tight end.
Firm graded out at 90 percent last season with 31 knockdowns.
He will be backed up at center by junior Zac Evans.
Sophomores Zac Kuntz and Tyler Mattern are in a three-way battle with junior James Behnke to draw the starting assignment at left tackle.
Simpson will start at left guard, and he backed up by junior Jacob Roth.
Ashton Ellis – a transfer from Toronto – will be the team’s new right guard. The senior will be backed up by sophomore Hunter Thompson.
Senior Jamison Stiles gets the nod at right tackle, and he will be backed up by sophomore Gabe Glenn.
“I would say our strength is up front,” Collopy said. “Offensively, we plan to be multiple in a lot of ways. Offensively, there is only one ball. We are going to have five skill guys plus the quarterback out there. We are going to have six guys who want to touch the football. We preach to them that its not about the individual. It’s not about stats or anything like that. The goal is to move the ball down the field and score.
“Defensively, we are pretty good up front. The guys up front have to work with the linebackers and those guys have to work with the guys in the secondary with pass coverage.
“What you think will happen and what does happen may be two different things. What you think may be a strength early will not be later.”
Defensively, Firm will play left defensive end as will Talan McClurg, who will also see time at linebacker. Simpson and Kuntz battling it out for time at left defensive tackle. Ellis and Kuntz will see time at right defensive tackle, and Stiles, Thompson and Davis are competing for time at right defensive end.
Chase McClurg will start at left outside linebacker, while Parsons will man the spot in the middle. On the right side, Eisnaugle and Waggoner are in a two-way battle for the starting position.
Cline and Lancaster are cornerbacks as are Vangosen and Taylor. Jones and Rawson will see time at strong safety, while Hayes and Jett will play free safety.
Edison suffered a big loss when reliable kicker Mason Montgomery, who was also a member of Edison’s boys’ soccer team – transferred to Big Red.
“We have a couple punters and kickers,” Collopy said. “We have punters back from last season. The backups from last year have been doing a really good job. We have two guys working on kickoffs and PATs. One is a former soccer player, and one is a straight on kicker. They are showing promise. We want to keep improving. They are working hard to fill those shoes.”
Junior Liam Watson – a former player on the boys’ soccer team – is competing with Ellis for the role of kicker. Stiles and Cline are in a competition at punter.
Hayes and Lancaster will return kicks and punts.
Jones will serve as the team’s holder.
Lancaster will be the team’s long snapper.
Edison has made some changes to the schedule this season as Monroe Central and Woodward are new to the 10-week slate.
“It is pretty much what it has been,” Collopy said. “We open with Monroe Central. Traditionally, they are a really good program. For the most part, our schedule is pretty much the same. We plays teams that are close, and those are always big games for the communities and for the schools. Our schedule is pretty much the same as it was last year.”
The Wildcats just want to get better ever day throughout the season.
“The thing is our goal is to win every day,” Collopy said. “That has always been my philosophy. A lot can happen during a season. It is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. There are 10 chapters, and one chapter does not make a book.”
Having made the playoffs each of the past two seasons, the Wildcats are looking to build off that success as the upcoming season gets underway.
“Absolutely, the guys got a taste of it last year,” Collopy said. “The coaches and the players know what it took to make it out there last season. We have talked about it with our group meetings. The coaches and players have learned from that experience last year. We played a really-good team last year. Unfortunately, the game did not go our way, but our kids understand what it takes to get there.
“If you want to build something big, you you have to build off the momentum you have. We now have the experience of getting there. We know what it takes. We just have to get better every day.”
Edison (0-3) is still looking for its first playoff victory in program history.
Jason Fogle, Frank Marcino, Jamie Evans, Vinnie Marcino, Nick Angelini, Collin Skeeles join Pierro as assistant coaches this season.