Clay-Battelle Comes With Loads of Experience
By KYLE LUTZ
BLACKSVILLE — After finishing 9-1 in the regular season and making a appearance in the state semifinals in 2014, Clay-Battelle experienced some growing pains during the first half of the 2015 season, experimenting with a somewhat young team. After the first five games, the Cee-Bees were 1-4.
However, Ryan Wilson’s squad had a complete turnaround four of the last five to finish with a record of 5-5.
“During the last five games, we did go 4-1,” Wilson said. “And we had a couple of big wins in there. I’d say we were a young ballclub last year and I think that sort of got us at the beginning of the season.
”We were just being overpowered in some games and some of our young kids would make some young mistakes. After the season went along, they improved and that was a good thing.”
The Cee-Bees begin the season without one of their leaders from the past three years in Jarrett Hockenberry, as he graduated and moved on to Marshall. However, Clay-Battelle has a plethora of talented kids coming back and Wilson saw some good things early in camp.
“Anytime you lose a ballplayer with Jarrett’s capability, it’s a huge loss. But that happens.
”But I’ve seen more kids stepping up to make plays and instead of relying on one or two kids to make more of the plays, it’s spread around more. My receiving corps has done a nice job as have the running backs.”
Tanner Burnette (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) will be under center this year. The senior saw quality time as he threw for more than 700 yards.
“Tanner has a good idea of the offense,” Wilson said. “He has a really good arm. He’s a playmaker also.”
Clay-Battelle has a variety of options at the running back position. Juniors Logan Forquer (5-9, 160) and Travis Dillie (5-9, 160) will likely be the front two backs. Another player Wilson said is an option is a receiver that could move in the backfield in senior Tim Hall (5-10, 175).
Sophomore Nathan Swaniger (6-0, 160) impressed with his feet and will see some time carrying the ball.
“Nathan’s got some speed,” Wilson said. “He blazed the 40 for us and only being a sophomore, he’s got some good size, 6-foot, 170. Strength-wise he is really good. So we have four kids that can step in and share the carries. It’s not just going to be one kid.”
Along with Hall at receiver, senior Chris Wolfe (5-9, 155) is a returning starter. Junior Gunner Brummage (6-3, 175) and senior Elijah Steele (5-11, 195) will also be at receiver along with senior Jeremy Ferraro (5-10, 170) and junior Collin Knotts (6-0, 170).
“Those six kids, I see anyone can step up and make plays,” Wilson said. “Right now they are getting a good feel with Tanner, getting their timing down. I like what I’ve seen so far. Those guys worked well in 7-on-7.”
Just like his skills position, Wilson was excited about what he has been seeing from the offensive line. At right tackle, junior Benji Steele (5-11, 240) returns after playing all 10 games as a sophomore. Nick Haas (5-11, 260), a senior who Wilson says is their strongest kid, will be placed at right guard. Junior Ben Willard (6-1, 215) will snap the ball at center and also played every game. At left guard is senior Philip Carson (5-10, 245). Sean Travelstead (5-11, 180), a senior, will be at left tackle.
“Those five are a great group to be with,” Wilson said. “They work hard and do anything you ask them. They try to strive together as a team as a unit to get better.”
On the defensive side, Benji Steele will be back at end and Haas returns at tackle. Kevin Gorbey (6-5, 220) is the other tackle.
Elijah Steele and Travelstead will rotate at the other end position.
The linebacking crew also has loads of experience. On the outside will be Forquer and Hall. The two inside backers will be Dillie and Willard.
At free safety will be Wolfe, who Wilson says is the quarterback on the defensive side.
Burnette will be one of the corners along with Brummage.
On special teams, the punting will be done by either Brummage or Burnette while Gorbey will handle the kicking responsibilities.
With a lot of experience returning, not only is Wilson excited for the season, the kids are too and they are expecting big things.
“They’re excited,” Wilson said. “I think every team coming in, everyone is always excited at the beginning and our team is too.
”Different things about spreading the excitement is that they had a good offseason in terms of getting stronger. Several of them were in the weight room and they built a pretty good bond there. In camp, we’ve done some different things and they did some team-building right there.
“I just think they like playing the game together out there. They’re getting excited for each other when one of them makes a play. They’re encouraging, they’re helping each other out, and talking things through.
“You can just see that they are taking an interest in the team. They’re not just going through the motions. Those are nice things to see.”
The other seniors on the team are Josh Tate and Logan Cottrell while the remaining juniors are Dylan Morris, Jonathon Eddy, Tommy Thomas and Tyrus Cole. Hunter Brewer, Kohlton Yost, Michael Stewart, Tyler Bell, Caleb Simpson, Tim Parrish, Dylan Statler, Billy Arnett, Levi Finch, Noah Watson and Nick Palmer are the sophomore class.
The freshmen include Drew Deletto, Seth Casino, Ricky Swanson, Jordan Herndon, Jordan Johnson, Erick White, Sean Hays, Kasey Latocha and Nick Rose.
Wilson will be assisted by Kent Saul, Chris Huffman, Derrick Cole and Richard Herrington.