Conotton Valley Seeks New Culture
By TRACY WATSON
BOWERSTON — There have been plenty of things missing in the Conotton Valley football program through the years – mainly pride, enthusiasm and numbers.
That could all be changing heading into the 2017 season under first-year Coach Brant Gardner and his crew. First off, the Rockets will have a roster consisting of 35 players, which is leaps and bounds better than what the team has had to work with in the past.
There is also an eight-man coaching staff which is bring plenty of fire in trying to build the program up to where they want it to be.
“We are very optimistic right now,” Gardner said. “We have a roster with 35 kids, which is over double what we had last year, and 17 of those are returning. We only lost three seniors, and while they were good players, we are confident we can fill those holes.
“All offseason we have talked about what we want to build this into and told everyone the things we want to do to make it different. So far, the coaches, the school, the community, the Booster and most importantly, the players are buying into everything.
“School and the Boosters have really made big investments into the program also.”
Junior Kris Hostetler (6-2, 185) takes over under center and he will be behind a veteran offensive line that includes five returning letterwinners. Senior Cody Smith (5-8, 205) will be thee left guard with classmate Tanner Berg (5-9, 225) on the right side. Senior Dylan Booth (5-11, 265) is the right tackle while sophomore Zack Breiding (5-11, 270) is on the right side. Junior Joey Schaar (6-4, 250) anchors the line at center.
Freshman Mikey Cottis (5-10, 155) and junior Matt Caldwell (5-10, 140) will back Hostetler at quarterback while juniors Garrett Burrows (6-3, 250) and Jerrod Wolfe (5-11, 170) are available on the line. Other linemen include sophomores Hunter Lewis (5-11, 245), Garik Imes (5-6, 200), Brandon Underwood (5-8, 220) and Dylan Hambleton (5-9, 220) as well as freshmen Clayton Nedrow (5-10, 265) and Dominik Geckler (5-11, 155).
Senior letterman Jake White (5-7, 155) will get the call at fullback where he will get some carries as well as provide holes for sophomore David Broderick (5-8, 145), junior Jeramiah Roach (5-10, 163) and sophomore Andrew Bogner (5-10, 200). Junior Jimmy McGill (5-8, 170) will be White’s main backup.
The wide receiver corps will be led by Matt Caldwell, sophomore Braden Caldwell (5-7, 120), juniors Kale Sellards (5-7, 130) and Dustin Willoughby (5-11, 160) and sophomore (5-5, 110). Matt Caldwell was the Rockets’ quarterback last season, having thrown for over 1,400 yards and being a first-team All-OVAC performer.
Junior Dallas Romig (5-8, 155) is a letterman who will get the call at tight end with classmate Nate Novak (5-8, 210) also seeing some action.
“We return nine starters on offense, which is a pretty good place to start,” Gardner said. “And we have a lot of kids that have never played before that are turning out to be pretty good athletes.
“Matt Caldwell did an outstanding job at quarterback for us this year, but we are going to move him to receiver and see how that works out for us this season.”
The defensive front will be made up of Schaar and Novak at the ends and Berg and Booth at the tackles. Wolfe will also see playing time at end while Breiding is available at tackle.
Lining up at inside linebacker will be McGill and Smith with Roach, Bogner and senior Austin Cox (5-9, 175). Romig and White will be on the outside with help from Hostetler and Broderick.
Matt Caldwell will be the safety with Braden Caldwell, who will also see time at safety, being joined by Willoughby, Broderick, Sellards and junior Ethan Barton (5-9, 140) at the corners.
Gardner and his crew were still working out kickers for placements and punting.
Conotton Valley will open up hosting Strasburg Franklin, however, the Rockets will then hit the road for four of their next five games.
“We have some tough games on our schedule, and some long drives as well,” Gardner said. “But I feel these are all teams that we should be able to compete with. Last year we played up a couple of divisions with some teams, but it is a little more evened out this year.
“The two or three playoff teams we had last year are also gone which will make things a little more manageable.
“Overall, I felt we had a bad vibe as a team last year and we have told the returning players that things were going to be different this time around and we wanted them to focus on the positive and the coaching staff would as well. We also implemented a good off-season lifting program that we feel will help us out in the long run.
“I believe that the entire culture at Conotton Valley is changing and we want to be a big part of that.”
Gardner, who was an assistant coach on last year’s squad, will be joined on the sidelines by assistants Mike Reese, Ty Carrothers, Kenny Moffat, Keith Imes, Matt Grezlik, Julie Anthony and Adam Reardon.