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‘Improvement’ Is the Word at Conotton Valley

By CODY TOMER

BOWERSTON — ‘Improvement’ seems to be the word Connotton Valley coach Karl Justus and his Rockets are focusing on this season. Last year the Rockets went 1-9 but Justus is taking over as the new head coach and expects his team to compete more in the 2016 campaign.

Justus has coached for 34 years. It’s a career that includes 23 years in high school and 11 at the collegiate level. His 11 years of coaching college football included stops at Akron and Auburn University, and he is now entering his third year as a head coach at the high school level.

“We need to improve from last season,” Justus said. “If we can avoid major injuries, I believe that our team is capable of being a competitive team this year.”

One reason why staying healthy will play such a key role for CVHS this year, is there are only 19 players suiting up. So there will be a lot of kids playing on both sides of the ball.

“Our lack of depth is probably our weakness,” Justus said. “We have plenty of big, strong and physical kids but we are running low on the skill players this year. Most of them are going to be playing both ways.”

Graduation didnt help either. The Rockets lost eight players that included impact performers such as wide receiver Brady Belknap, center Bryson Bailey, running back and linebacker Jordan Masters, wide receiver and linebacker Brandon McCreary and receiver and defensive back Zane Mauge.

With so many key players missing from the team, Justus is going to try to keep the opposition off balance.

“We are going to try to mix it up on offense,” he said. “It depends on our sophomore quarterback and how fast he comes along.”

Returning letterman Matt Caldwell is the young man who will step under center and try to help get the Rockets over the hump.

He will have senior Joe Kyle to throw the ball to at the wide receiver position and he can hand it off to senior returning letterwinner Bryden Adams, who is the starting running back.

Other seniors on the offense are Garett Rice, who is a returning letterman at fullback, and lineman Chris Green.

There are five juniors including four linemen. Returning lettermen on the line include Dylan Booth, John Adkins and Tanner Berg, while Cody Smith could see time in the trenches as well.

Jake White rounds out the junior class at receiver and defensive back.

Including Caldwell, the sophomore class has four returning lettermen with linemen Joey Schaar and Dallas Romig, along with tight end Nate Novack. Jeramiah Roach could also see playing time on the line.

The five freshmen suiting up for Coach Justus are receivers Braden Caldwell and David Broderick, along with linemen Garik Imes, Zack Breiding and Brandon Underwood.

“Our offensive line is young but very good, too,” Justus added. “We might only have one senior on the line, so they will all be back next year too.”

Helping Justus bring this young group along are assistants Kenny Moffat, Brant Gardner and Josh Blair.

“I think that Toronto is the only playoff team that we have on the schedule this year,” the coach said. “I think we can score and again, if we can hold on with nobody getting hurt, I think we will be all right.”

The Rockets will get their first chance at improvement at 7 on Friday night, when they travel to Strasburg to kick off the season.

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