MOUNDSVILLE — The last time Mark Cisar stood on a sideline as a head football coach, he led the 2012 Union Local Jets onto the gridiron.
Now, 10 years later, he is once again holding the reins as the head coach but this time at John Marshall after helping Justin Kropka last year as an assistant coach for the Monarchs.
Cisar is also the head baseball coach for the JM baseball team, which he believes will help him pick up where he left off at Union Local.
“It helps being the head baseball coach,” Cisar said. “I know what to expect dealing with the kids, media and things like that. I’m excited about this opportunity with a bunch of seniors coming back.”
In one season under Kropka, John Marshall finished 6-4 and lost 13 seniors to graduation, including RB/LB duo Ben McCardle and Nate Menendez.
“We lost both inside linebackers in McCardle and Menendez. We’ll have to replace both of them. Jared Kerkes was a starting defensive end and fullback that we lost and Grant Neiswonger was probably our best lineman last year and he’s gone too. We lost our center Alex Francis but we have the pieces to replace those guys now. We’re seven or eight deep on the line right now with big kids.”
Also graduating were linemen Ethan Neely, Braden Hagedorn, Jordan Rouse and Logan Bundy; wide receivers Patrick Ostrander, Koda Moore and Noah Beckett; and tight end Gage Hoskins.
Returning at quarterback this season is senior Jacob Coffield, who got a year of experience under his belt last year.
“Coffield is our offensive leader,” Cisar said. “He does a great job commanding our offense and hopefully he can hurt the defense with his arm this year. We know he can run it. Getting that experience last year gave him the knowledge of the game and hopefully that helps him out with his reads.”
Providing QB depth are sophomores Brooks Harrison and Hayden Gaiser.
It also helps having a young stallion in the backfield like sophomore Klypsan Wallace, who galloped for over 1,000 yards as a freshman.
“Klypsan is a special athlete,” Cisar said. “He reminds you of that typical Oklahoma State tailback. He reminds you of Boogie Johnson. He’s 5-foot-8, 190 pounds and is as strong as can be. He has good football knowledge and good vision. He wants contact. He had a big year last year with 16 touchdowns and for a freshman, that’s amazing.”
Senior running backs include JD Wells, Luke Burton and Mickey Goddard, while sophomore Carter Adkins could also see carries.
Senior Jace Riding will be a valuable presence at fullback.
Cisar is especially excited about the wide receiver corp this season.
Twin brothers Brennan and Braden Sobutka enter their senior year and will provide an offensive spark through the air with their hands and speed, as will classmate Ashton Collett, junior Demario White and sophomore Wesley Hughes.
“Having so many skill guys is nice,” Cisar said. “If we need to throw it, we can throw it. We’d like to run it inside with a kid who ran for over 1,000 yards last year but we have good receivers who can catch it. We should be able to spread it out and have a balanced offense. I’d love it if we could run it about 35 times a game and throw it about 20 times.”
Other options at receiver who will likely make an impact include seniors Jace Bartsch, Cody Hartman and Ryan Ward; juniors Mason Hagedorn, Conor Fitzpatrick, Wyatt Korn and Curtis Whorton; and sophomores Luke Beaton, Kaden Harding, Landon Carroll, Rhett Clovis, Kaden Bungard and Zander Ward.
Fitzpatrick will also handle kicking and punting duties after a stellar sophomore campaign.
Tight ends include senior Kody Harding and sophomores Eugene Henry III and Clay Howard.
Manning the trenches of the offensive line will be a talented group of Monarchs.
“We can throw if we need to but if we need 1 or 2 yards, we can line up and run the ball,” Cisar said. “It helps to have seniors Cole Porter (6-5, 300) and Bryce Cook (6-1, 225), and juniors Andreas Hunter (6-5, 300), Caleb Yates (6-3, 290) and Victor McElwee (6-2, 255) coming back.”
Other linemen who will be counted on consists of seniors Ty Rogers and Mathieu Wright; juniors Jason Minor, Tanen McNeil and Scott Schenerlein; and sophomores Hudson Markwas, Silas Summers, Hunter Wright, Allick Summers, Logan Stevey and Gage Hercules.
On the other side of the ball, Cisar will look for Riding to fill in for the loss of Menendez and McCardle at the lineback position.
Riding will be joined by the likes of Wallace, Coffield, Hartman, Whorton, Harrison, Wells, Henry III, Burton, Goddard, junior Andrew Lyons and sophomore Maverick LeMasters.
Braden and Brennan Sobutka will join forces in the secondary.
Also vying for defensive back snaps will be White, Hagedorn, Bartsch, Hughes, Beaton, Gaiser, Fitzpatrick, Korn, Collett, Kaden Harding, Adkins, Carroll, Ryan Ward, Clovis, Bungard, Howard and Zander Ward.
Kody Harding, Cook, Markwas, Silas Summers, Allick Summers, Hunter Wright, Mathieu Wright, McElwee, Minor, McNeil, Rogers, Schenerlein, Stevey, Hunter, Yates, Hercules and Porter will be relied upon to deliver on the defensive line.
With what looks to be a balanced offense and strength on defense, Cisar’s squad is aiming for the playoffs.
“Our one goal is that we want to get in the playoffs,” Cisar said. “Somehow, some way, whether it’s the No. 1 or No. 16 seed, we want to get in. It would be great to be around the middle of the pack but our schedule is as rough as it can be. University is going to reload. They have athletes, their quarterback is coming back and it will be a challenge right from the get-go. We’ll find out where we’re at Week 1. Then we have Weir who returns a ton and then we go to Bridgeport — another power. We have Linsly later in the schedule so it’s going to be very challenging but we’re going to take it one game at a time. We’re going to take coach (Richard) Mercer’s old philosophy from Union Local — that is to go 1-0 this week. I hope our guys buy into that. We can’t look forward and let one get away from us. If we make the playoffs we’re going to deserve it.”
Joining Cisar on the sidelines will be assistants Joe Sturgill, Joel Sansone, Griffin Yocum, Keith Knapp, Bob Ripley, Eddie Anderson, Zack Palmer, Art Kaste, Scott Jones, Austin Skrzyneki and trainer Brian Smith.