WOODSFIELD — There’s a strange twist at practices for Monroe Central head coach Josh Ischy this fall he hadn’t experienced the past two seasons.
“We finally can have traditional 11-on-11 practices and work both sides of the ball,” said the former Mount Union defensive back of his 28-man roster, of which 11 lettered a season ago.
Coming off back-to-back D7 Region 27 playoff appearances, the Seminoles went 4-5 last fall before being ousted in a playoff loss at River.
“Many people don’t know we were down to 16 kids last July and there were safety concerns,” mentioned the fifth-year boss. “The numbers are much improved. We had more kids at a Muskingum 7-on-7 than we dressed last season.”
The ‘Noles open at first-time foe Edison, a D5 school, Friday in Richmond, before returning to their home reservation the next three weeks versus MOVL foes Bridgeport and River, and old PVC rival Caldwell.
Coach Josh Ischy discusses the upcoming campaign
“We only have six seniors, three having seen extensive play, but we won’t have to rely on a lot of freshmen,” Ischy said. “Our ninth-graders can be more of role players and not be forced to carry the load.”
The optimism begins at the Monroe County seat school with the Seminoles’ six seniors, led by three-year returning starter Jayke Vinskovich (5-11, 225), a two-way all-Ohio tackle.
“(Jayke) has the program’s lineage in his bloodline,” added Ischy, as Vinskovich is grandson to former Monroe Central Hall of Fame coach Jay Circosta. He’ll anchor one of MCHS’ biggest lines in several years as it averages 230 and should be the team’s strength.
Another three-year vet is Xavier Kinney (5-10, 185), a tight end/linebacker, while two-year letterman Travis Berry (6-2, 180) is an offensive tackle and D-end.
Rounding out the seniors are two-way tackle vet Aaron Fletcher (5-10, 255), returning receiver/linebacker Terry Price (5-8, 150), and wideout/d-back Jesse Johnson (5-5, 125).
Only four juniors dot the roster, but Ischy has two skilled ones ready to move the chains in versatile back Landen Lydick (6-2, 200) and swift receiver Carter Knowlton (5-11, 175), both having earned letters twice.
Lydick caught 27 passes for 144 and three TDs. He’ll also play linebacker as the ‘Noles return seven starters on D. Knowlton will bolster what should be a strong secondary.
Two other 11th graders are Dalton Phillips (l5-10, 180), a two-way back/tight end, and receiver/d-back Kaden Buzzard (5-10, 155).
A dozen sophomores fill out Monroe’s largest class, including Tucker Howell (6-1, 185), who lettered backing up graduated all-Ohioan Malachi Rose-Burton.
“(Tucker) did a lot of good things for us as a freshman, either at QB or other positions,” said Ischy, “and his athleticism is an integral part of our offense. He knows it and should feel comfortable behind center.”
A pair of 10th graders back on the offensive line are Bill Kroll (5-9, 255) and Samuel Comstock (5-11, 225). The duo, along with Vinskovich, give the Seminoles excellent pass/run blocking. Another sophomore letterman is Logan Powell (5-9, 155), a wide receiver/DB.
Other sophomores ready for duty in the trenches are big two-way tackle Kaleb Grimm (6-1, 355), center/tackle Andrew Pickenpaugh (6-2, 290), guard/linebacker Ethan Gillespie (5-8, 155), and lineman Drew Miller (5-11, 145).
Tyler Whitacre (6-1, 170) and Evan Knowlton (5-8, 145) are receiver/defensive back candidates, while Clint Rader (5-8, 160) and Jacob Fogle (6-0, 135) can provide depth at linebacker and wideout.
Six freshmen are led by two-way tackle Parker Sefert (5-10, 260), and a trio of linebacker prospects in Lukes Stiver (5-6, 165), Arville Rutter (5-6, 155), and Talin Stein (5-8, 155). Two linemen are Taven Campbell (6-0, 180) and Grady English (6-1, 150).
“What we graduated we lost as far as things we could rely on,” said Ischy, as Rose-Burton, who put up numbers like he was the star of a Madden video game. He ran for 1,471 yards and 21 TDs, while he completed 50 percent of his passes for 1,297 yards and another 18 TDs. He’s at Franciscan University in Steubenville for basketball after quarterbacking Ohio’s All-Stars to an OVAC game win last month.
Also departed is receiver/linebacker Michael Bunting, who set the record for unassisted tackles at MCHS before being injured. He’ll continued his football career at Marietta College. Others were Dillon Lincoln (U.S. Army) and Austin Yonak.
Aiming for another Region 27 playoff berth, Ischy has his entire coaching staff returning for Monroe’s 29th season following the consolidation of old Skyvue and Woodsfield schools steeped with athletic tradition. Back are associate head coaches John Ischy, Jonathon Calder, Brian Longwell, Curtis Nixon, and Marcus Schumacher.
Along with Edison, Division IV Buckeye Local returns to the schedule after a year off.
The ‘Noles compete in the OVAC 2A as well as the Mid-Ohio Valley League.