Last season few knew what to expect from the Toledo Christian Eagles. Long time coach Mike Snyder had retired and the new coach, John Miller, was an unknown commodity. The unknown commodity, however, proved to be a valuable one.
The Eagles, who have never made the state playoffs, came within a whisker of qualifying last year and, with a strong returning corps and some promising newcomers, Toledo Christian is looking forward to their first trip to the big show.
Miller enters his second year at the helm with six solid players returning on offense and eight on defense.
“We have good overall team speed but we are a bit undersized,” Miller said. “Hopefully, this can be overcome by the fact that this is our second year and the players understand our philosophy and expectations. Now we can fine tune.”
Leading the way on offense will be senior running back Derrick Arnold (5-9, 180). Arnold was one of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference’s (TAAC) leading backs last season, and with an additional year of experience, is expected to have a big year. Arnold’s field vision and his willingness to run hard makes it difficult for opposing defenses to stop him and a big year from Arnold should guarantee Toledo Christian’s success.
Because Miller looks at ball control as an essential element of the Eagle’s 2007 offense, the role of the quarterback and his ability to manage the offense is of utmost importance. Fulfilling this role will most likely be junior Grant Simms (6-0, 165). Although only a junior, Miller feels that Simms is “a good leader” and “is excellent at managing the team.”
“To be successful we need to control the ball. Simms’ leadership should allow us to do that,” the coach said.
With eight returning players on defense the Eagles are well positioned to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. All good defenses are strong up the middle and the Eagles have a good one in nose tackle Kyle Barney (6-2, 275).
Barney’s size and strength makes it difficult for teams to run the ball up the middle and buys time for the Eagles’ outstanding linebackers to read the play and react. These linebackers, led by senior Justin Middaugh (5-8, 160), all have above average speed and great noses for the ball.
“Middaugh was our leading tackler last year and he hits hard, but all of our linebackers have good speed,” Miller said. “We try to keep our defense simple and let them fly to the ball.”
On the occasions when opposing teams get into the Eagles’ defensive backfield Miller looks for senior cornerback Eric Yunker (5-9, 160) to step up and make the big play. Yunker is “very fast” and provides “great man coverage.” Like the team’s linebackers, Yunker also hits hard and opposing offenses tend to avoid his area.
As good as the returning players are, Miller is quick to point out that he has a number of “young guys coming in who will make an impact. We are not sure who they will be but our team philosophy is that everyone must earn their position and a number of the underclassmen will undoubtedly earn a spot.”
Although the Eagles came close to both a league title and state playoff berth last season, Miller is not satisfied. He feels, based upon the returning talent and the potential of several newcomers, that a TAAC championship and a postseason trip are realistic team goals. Lofty goals but, given this unknown commodity’s past success, goals that are likely reachable.
Toledo Christian 2007 Schedule
|8/24/2007||@ Toledo Libbey||2|
|9/21/2007||@ West Unity Hilltop||6|
|9/28/2007||Oregon Cardinal Stritch||6|