Rockets Want To Be Better Conditioned for 4th Quarter
By TRACY WATSON
BOWERSTON — Entering his second season at Conotton Valley, Coach Brant Gardner is concentrating on conditioning and having the chance to play meaningful fourth quarters.
Gardner felt confident entering the 2017 campaign, however, early injuries played a big part in the Rockets never really getting their footing. It took Conotton Valley four weeks just to dent the scoreboard, which they did in a 20-7 win over Chalker, its only victory of the season.
“Last year turned in to a big learning curve for us,” Gardner said. “And it didn’t help anything that we had a lot of early injuries plaque us. But we once again have some pretty good numbers, and a larger coaching staff.
“We are going into this season very optimistic and positive after last year’s disappointments. I feel like we are on more solid footing and heading in the right direction.”
Junior Braden Caldwell (5-foot-7, 145) will be under center on offense with sophomore fullback Ethan Mauge (5-10, 186) getting most of the carries. The wide receiver dominated offense will include seniors Kristopher Hostetler (6-2, 185) and Damian Rickey (5-10, 150) along with classmate, and three-year letterman, Matt Caldwell (5-10, 155) and sophomore Mikey Cottis (5-10, 180) in the slot.
Matt Caldwell accounted for more than 1,700 yards of offense a season ago while Cottis will be the back-up quarterback.
Freshman James Burleson (5-5, 124) is also available in the slot.
The line will consist of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore with senior tackle Dallas Romig (5-8, 155) a three-year starter. The other tackle will be senior Jimmy McGill (5-8, 170) with senior Joey Schaar, another three-year letterman, (6-4, 275) and junior Zack Breiding (5-11, 310) at the guards. Sophomore Dominik Geckler (5-11, 155) will anchor the line.
Junior Dylan Hambleton (5-9, 224) and freshman Collin White (5-3, 210) could also see playing time on the line.
Other specialty players include seniors Jeramiah Roach (5-10, 165), junior Gavin Pyles, David Broderick and Heath Pizzino and sophomore Dillion Daniels. The remaining linemen are senior Nate Novak, junior Garik Imes and freshmen Garson Imes, Deric Radich, Braylen Novak, Gavin Booth, Trenton Lloyd and Ethan Roach.
The defense will be led by a solid linebacking corps of Burleson, Mauge, Daniels, Broderick and McGill with Jeramiah Roach and Radich also seeing action. Defensive end will be strong with Schaar and Romig while the tackles will consist of Breiding, Hambleton and White.
The defensive backfield will be led by Hostetler, Matt Caldwell and Braden Caldwell. Hostetler will handle the punting duties with Schaar kickoffs and Nate Novak extra-points and field goals.
“Matt Caldwell is back for us and if he can stay healthy, he is going to be someone we can depend on,” Gardner said. “And our seniors are very hungry and ready to start winning.”
Gone from last year’s squad are Jake White, Dylan Swonger, Tanner Burke and Cody Smith.
The coaching staff also includes Mike Reese, Ty Carrothers, Kenny Moffat, Mike Winland, Keith Imes, Matt Grezlik, Adam Reardon and Garett Rice.
“Our biggest goal this year to play four quarters of football each and every week,” Gardner said. “And we want to win some fourth quarters, and some games. Part of that process will be rotating players more often and better conditioning.”
While the Rockets will open the campaign at home against rival Strasburg-Franklin, there are two changes on the slate with Weirton Madonna and Malvern both being added.
“We added a couple of pretty good teams, but our focus is always on that season-opener with Strasburg which pretty much sets the tone for the entire season for us,” Gardner said.