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Football 2012: ‘Success Is Shared’ For Connor, Redskins

August 23, 2012
By FRED YOUNCE , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WINTERSVILLE - Last season saw Andrew Connor's Indian Creek Redskins turn the corner by winning a share of their first Buckeye 8 crown and earning the team's first playoff berth under the coach's watch, and only second in school history.

Now that the Redskins had a taste of the postseason, it will be their task to return and build upon that success while avoiding the trap of resting on past accomplishment.

''I tell the kids this all the time, whether you win or lose your last game, it was your last game,'' Connor said. ''What we did last year will not be a factor this year. Last year's seniors graduated and I told this year's seniors it's their job to keep the program moving in a forward direction.

''Obviously we were happy with what happened last year, but by no means were we satisfied with what happened. I think that's the motto our kids have had. We're going to play with passion, we're going to play with the idea there is a greater purpose for all of us together and that is we want to accomplish more.

''Like we have on our shirts, ''success is shared.'' We realize for us to be successful every kid has to do their job, do their role, and come to practice everyday ready to work.''

One basic trait needs to develop in order for Indian Creek to keep improving its program this season. It's omething Connor says his team has been working on since last season ended.

''Basically it's consistency,'' he said. ''We want our kids to realize they have to work to get better. You can't have days where you plateau, and you have to work to make yourself better.

''We told our kids if every player makes themselves better then obviously we become a better team. Basically it's consistency and that's something you start working at way back when you first start hitting the weights in November.''

The running game is expected to provide consistency to Connor's offense early in the season as a passing game led by a new quarterback and a group of inexperienced receivers get its feet wet.

''I think it's simple,'' Connor said. ''We have a lot of inexperienced wideouts. Even transitioning (senior) Alex (Young) to quarterback to take David Kemp's spot. Our bread and butter will be running the ball.

''We have a pretty veteran offensive line and we have a lot of backs that played meaningful snaps over the course of last season, so when we start off we'll be leaning a little more toward the run as we try to develop our passing game and those kids try to grow up.''

Those running backs will be led by seniors Logan Woods and Blake Roar. Woods proved to be a big-play threat for the Redskins as a junior in a backup role to the graduated Mark Ludewig.

''I think anytime you get a kid either an offensive or defensive snap and it's still in a meaningful part of the game, obviously it's something you can't simulate in practice,'' Connor said. ''Between him (Woods) and even Blake getting carries last year in games, it helps our offense and allows our receivers and Alex to grow into the position and not be forced to play more then their experience allows them.''

Also looking to get carries this year are senior Darren Gribble and junior Tran Huynh.

A trio of seniors will see time at fullback with Tyler Sharpe starting, while Ricky Hinerman and Merik Ludewig will provide depth.

The right side of Connor's line will consist of senior tackle Levi Flesher and junior guard Justin Gibson. On the left side, seniors Bobby Lenko and Shane Winland will rotate at guard and senior Jake Mamula will man the tackle. Junior Mark Wojciechowski will control the middle at center.

''I don't know how other coaches develop their systems, but I want to run the ball and I don't make any bones about that,'' Connor said. ''To run the football you have to have guys that have some experience up front, and I think as long as you have an offensive line that understands the game and have, in a way, grown up together, it takes a lot pressure off you.

''You are able to not worry so much finding combinations and I think we're lucky to have some guys with experience on the line.''

Adding depth on the offensive line are senior Devin Cook, juniors Nate Beatty, Tyler West, and Paul Eakle as well as sophomores Luke Carroll, Nick Fortunato, and Austin Bennington.

Young moves from receiver to quarterback this season. His explosive speed will be a factor defenses will have to be prepared for, though Connor thinks people may underestimate the other skills he brings to the table.

''I think people assume because of his speed that we're going to swing him out every play, or that's the only thing he's going to be able to do,'' Connor said. ''We're not going to change our offense any from when David had it to when Alex has it. Alex is a good quarterback.

''He's going to be able to sit in the pocket and he throws the ball very well. We feel we have a lot of kids at wideout, though they need to grow up some this year, that had some reps last year in games and we should be able to carry the same offense we had last year.''

Backing up Young will be freshman Mandela Lawrence and sophomore Zach Crawford.

At receiver, the Redskins are forced to replace their two biggest weapons with the graduation of leading receiver Mike Furda and Young's move to quarterback. Besides needing his inexperienced receivers to mature quickly, Connor will need senior wideout Frankie Kamarec to step up as the team's top target.

''In one word, Frankie is a competitor,'' Connor said. ''Frankie, when he has to do what we need him to do, will answer the bell.''

Joining Kamarec at receiver are juniors Robbie Brandon and Cory Goodrich who will alternate on the other side of the field. Senior Drew Sullivan and junior Johnny Haught will see time at wideout as well.

Senior Alex LaRue will start at tight end with junior Zach Williams and sophomore Zach Connor also seeing time.

The Indian Creek defense returns seven starters and Connor believes that experience along with his team's speed, will be huge assets defensively.

''Everyone talks about how their offense wants to play fast, and I think we've done a better job of that, but I think now our defense plays fast,'' Connor said. ''I think that was an Achilles' heel for our program, but now we can put more kids out there that are quicker.

''Obviously quickness is what we need today with everyone running the spread and trips. That's one thing I think we're blessed with is I think we got quicker, I think our kids have worked on their quickness, and I think that's the strength of our defense.

''Experience, obviously, with seven guys returning, but the speed factor is something that we can say for the first time we can play fast on defense as well.''

Senior Monty McClelland along with Gibson and West will man the defensive tackle positions. Williams will play some tackle as well.

Senior Montell McClelland, Lenko, juniors Jonathan Woodbury and Christain Thomas along with LaRue will play at defensive end. Williams will see time here along with duties at defensive tackle.

Connor believes his defensive line can provide a pass rush that will help his secondary out greatly.

''I think it's very important because anytime you can get a pass rush it saves your DBs,'' Connor said. ''You don't want your DBs being back there covering 4, 5, or 6 seconds. I think when you look at the two factors we have are experience and quickness and when you play in the Buckeye 8 where all the teams are so fast and athletic, if we're not able to do that we'll be in big trouble.''

The four players starting in the secondary are all returners with Woods and Young manning the corners, Roar at strong safety, and Kamarec at free safety.

Expected to provide depth in the secondary are junior Dylan June, Huynh, Goodrich, Brandon, and Crawford.

Shane Winland mans the inside linebacker spot with Zach Connor backing him up. The Sam linebacker is Sharpe with Hinerman providing depth and Ludewig holds down the Will with sophomore Mike Freshwater backing him up.

Williams will perform the punting duties with Young seeing some possible time there as well. Beatty and Young are battling to handle the kicking duties.

Winland will be the long snapper.

Two contributors from last season will not be able to participate in football this year, but are still part of the 2012 squad.

Justin Cunningham and Mike Furda will not be suiting ujp this season for the Redskins.

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