CADIZ — As Anthony Hayes enters his fifth year as head coach at Harrison Central, he is unsure of what type of season the Huskies will have.
“Going into every year of coaching, as a head coach or assistant, I, and my staff, have had a pretty good idea of what we were going to have coming into a season. This is the first year that I don’t have any idea of what to expect,” Hayes admitted. “I really don’t know.
“Do I think we are capable of being good and have the talent to do so? Yes.
“Do I think we will mature and come around to the potential we need to achieve and sustain success? I don’t know. When you play a lot of young kids like we’ve been playing, you know they are going to play hard, but you don’t know what is going to happen when the pads come on and the bright lights come on.
“It changes the game, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Harrison Central, which is coming off a 4-7 season that saw it qualify for the Division V playoffs, has 18 returning lettermen among its 40-player roster. However, there is a reason for so many returnees.
“We have a lot of returning lettermen because we had to play a lot of young kids last year after the plethora of kids we lost to injury last year,” Hayes noted. “I tell people that it was experience, but it wasn’t game-ready experience just because we had to put them out there. Some were a little more ready than others. Some got in front of the bright lights and had no idea what they were doing, and justifiably so. They shouldn’t have been playing, but it was out of necessity.”
Coach Anthony Hayes discusses the upcoming campaign
There are six seniors on the roster which Hayes and his staff are counting on for leadership. They are Cabot Arbaugh, Tre Rex, Wyatt Pierce, Jace Madzia, Caleb Cowans and Josiah Jones. Arbaugh, Pierce, Madzia and Cowans are all three-year veterans, while Rex, who came over from Union Local after two seasons with the Jets, and Jones lettered last fall.
“Cabot was honorable mention all-state as sophomore at offensive tackle and was headed that way again last year until he suffered a shoulder injury that resulted in a season-ending injury. I felt bad for him, but he has come back full strength,” Hayes said of the 6-3, 260-pounder two-way lineman. “He came back at the end of basketball season, which was a lot quicker than the doctors had thought. He also played baseball. We’re expecting big things out of him, especially in the leadership role.
“Wyatt’s kind of been a journeyman of positions for us. He’s lettered all three years on special teams where he has been outstanding,” Hayes said of the 5-9, 155-pounder. “This year we’re going to try him on the defensive line because he has really good speed and quickness. That should cause good opportunities for our other guys on defense.
“Jace has been our placekicker since his freshman year and was our punter last season,” Hayes noted of his 6-2, 190-pounder. “He has had a good three years kicking the ball, and I expect nothing less from him this season.
“It seems like Caleb has been around forever,” Hayes joked of the 5-8, 245-pounder. “He started as a freshman and tore his ACL in week 5 at Martins Ferry on a fluke play when his spikes got stuck in the turf. His sophomore year he moved around (positions) a little bit, and his junior year we had to move him to the offensive line because of injuries.
“This year he will be at linebacker and back at fullback.
“Tre led us in interceptions last year and we’re excited to see what he brings us in his second season in our program,” Hayes said of the 6-5, 175-pounder.
“Josiah started at cornerback for us last year and I thought he did a very good job of improving as the season went on,” Hayes said of the 5-9, 175-pounder. “He’s another one of those kids that works his tail off, and we’re excited to see how he plays as a senior.”
Offensively, the Huskies will lineup in multiple sets.
Back for his second year as the Huskies’ field general is Junior Hayden Cassidy (5-11, 160). He is joined by Madzia and freshman Brady Hyre (6-2, 150).
“Hayden really had a good season for us last year,” Hayes said of Cassidy who had big shoes to fill in taking over for all-Ohioan Kobe Mitchell last season. “Part of his growth was slowed by us as coaches because we really didn’t know what he could do. It took us a couple of games to find out what he could do. He is a dual threat.”
Cassidy completed 116 of 217 passes for 1,288 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2021. He was picked off 11 times. He also ran for 232 yards and four scores on 97 carries.
Rex, Jones and Pierce lead the wideouts. Also listed are two-year letterwinner Parker Hutton (5-10, 185) and one-year letterman Alex Fluharty (6-3, 170). Others are junior RJ Belon (5-9, 150) and freshmen Chaz Culbertson (5-8, 150), Beau Rinkes (5-9, 150), Jacob Quito (5-8, 150) and Kayne Dunkle (6-0, 150).
Rex hauled in 18 passes for 267 yards and a trio of scores.
Hutton, who caught 15 passes for 203 yards, was honorable mention all-state as a freshman.
The tight ends are tall and lanky and include returning lettermen in junior Nick Fluharty (6-7, 200) and sophomore Clayton Vermillion (6-6, 200). Also in the mix are sophomore Anthony Pelegreen (5-9, 170) and freshmen Michael Stock (5-9, 150), Jaden Harris (5-10, 165) and Lane Gibbons (5-10, 165)
“We will play to the strengths that we have. We know we have some playmakers on the outside. They may not have the shiftiest guys, but we have good speed and good height,” he said of his wide receiver group. “We are really, really tall.”
In addition to Cowans in the backfield, Hayes will also count on junior Nate Frye (5-10, 180) and sophomores Blake Atkins (5-10, 195) and Mykel Quito (6-1, 240) to carry the workload. Others in the mix are freshmen Nico Wurschum (5-7, 165) and Vittorio Parziale (5-8, 185).
“Mykel got some quality carries last year while sharing time at fullback,” Hayes recalled. “He did a nice job and we are looking for bigger and better things from him this season.” He had 67 carries for 233 yards and a TD. He also snagged six passes.
Up front the Huskies are bigger than they have ever been. Of the 15 linemen, all but four are listed at 200 pounds or heavier, and five are returning letterwinners.
Cabot Arbaugh anchors the line at left tackle, while junior two-year letterman Hunter Boals (6-1, 230) is next to him at guard. The center is sophomore returning letterman Reed Arbaugh (6-1, 190). On the right side are the Thomas brothers – junior Lucas (6-4, 220) and sophomore Landen (6-3, 240) – who rejoin the team after sitting out last year.
“Hunter played every game last year. He was our only lineman to do that,” Hayes mentioned. “He has good speed and is a very good athlete.
“Reed is a long-bodied kid and is very coachable, while Lucas was our starting center as a freshman.”
Junior Nic Malone (5-10, 235) lettered as a freshman and sophomore, but missed most of last season with a knee injury.
“We’re happy to get Nic back. He is 100 percent healthy,” Hayes noted.
Others in the mix are juniors Tevan Palmer (5-7, 190) and Colton Tanner (5-9, 170); sophomores Jacob Bodenheimer (5-7, 240) and Austin Lucas (5-10, 200); and freshmen RJ Hendershot (5-9, 200), Kayson Hidey (6-0, 215), Xavier Kolinski (5-10, 180), Nathan Dulkoski (5-10, 230) and Dylan Walters (6-7, 325).
Defensively, Harrison Central will once again employ an odd front scheme.
“We’ve got pretty good team speed on this side of the ball,” Hayes said. “We’ll do a lot of the same base things we’ve done in the past, but we’ve added some wrinkles this season.”
The ends will be the Thomas brothers with Cabot Arbaugh, Malone, Reed Arbaugh and Boals alternating in there, as well.
Also listed on the defensive front are Pierce, Gibbons, Nick Fluharty, Hendershot, Hidey, Palmer, Kolinski, Tanner, Dulkoski, Bodenheimer, Lucas and Walters.
The middle linebackers are Cowans, Mykel Quito and Frye, with Vermillion, Stock, Harris, Pelegreen and Parziale also listed.
The secondary consists of Jones and Rex at the corners and Cassidy and Alex Fluharty at the safeties. Also expected to see action are Hutton, Rex, Atkins, Belon, Culbertson, Rinkes, Jacob Quito, Dunkle, Wurschum and Hyre.
Madzia will handle the kicking and punting duties.
“As far as field goals go, I told him if he’s making them we will continue to kick them, if needed,” Hayes said. “Jace has really developed into a really good place kicker. He has grown up in the last year-and-a-half. He was a late bloomer but can be a huge weapon for us.”
Harrison Central only has one new opponent on its schedule, that being Perry Traditional Academy from Pittsburgh. It replaces Bellaire. Also gone is Hawken which was picked up to replace East Liverpool which had to cancel because of COVID.
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Hayes added.
The coaching staff also remains the same with Bill Bryant, Ty Kenny, AJ Barsch, Mark Smith, David Nameth, Ian White, Cain Noble and Drew Case returning to the fold.
The Huskies open up with a road trip to Uhrichsville to meet Claymont in the “Tappan Lake Game.”
Lost to graduation were Trevor Carman, Jonathan Vermillion, Gabe Marbais, Riley Kubic, Daniel Thornton, Gavin Rapavi, Matt Smith, J.T. Wagner and Nathan Bertolino.