Reigning Region 18 champion Findlay Liberty-Benton will be looking to put on an encore performance with a new man in the head coach position as five-year assistant Tim Nichols moves up in place of Scott Garlock, who took a position as the quarterbacks coach at the University of Findlay.
Key Players: QB Aaron Craft (5-11, 170, So.), WR Joe Waldman (6-4, 200, Sr.), OT Michael Shivers (6-1, 270, Sr.), C Brandon Iott (6-1, 210, Sr.).
2006 Record: 12-2
The 2006 season marked another big step forward for the Findlay Liberty-Benton football program. The Eagles, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 2003, made their fourth consecutive appearance and reached the state semifinals for the first time.
After dropping their first game of the season, Liberty-Benton went on a 12-game win streak.
“We lost to Mohawk in Week One and then ended up 9-1 in the regular season,” head coach Tim Nichols said. “Probably from Week Five on we started playing better, and fortunately I think were playing our best football week 11 and on. Then we ran into St. Henry in the State Semis and played them pretty good. They made some plays at the end and that was it.
“We had a nice senior group; we graduated 19 seniors. That was a heck of a senior class that won a lot of football games here. I think once we got over the week one and opened our eyes a little bit, the seniors came around and just led us to about as far as we could get.”
There are some changes in store for Liberty-Benton this year, not just with plenty of new faces in starting positions but in the head coaching spot. Nichols, a five-year assistant, takes over for previous head coach Scott Garlock, who is now the quarterback coach at the University of Findlay.
Despite the change at the head coaching spot, Nichols says that the team’s approach will remain the same.
“The thing that really helped me decide to come here is we got to keep all of our coaches,” Nichols said. “Our defensive coordinator’s back and our offensive line coach, so there’s nothing that we’re going to really do different. So with the systems on both sides of the ball, there’s going to be a lot of carryover. From our standpoint, the kids already know that stuff. There’s not going to be a learning curve from that standpoint.”
The team’s top returning player might be just a sophomore. Quarterback Aaron Craft threw for over 20 touchdowns and won All-Ohio honors as a freshman.
“Offensively Aaron Craft will be back for us,” Nichols said. “He was a starter for us as a freshman and had a terrific year. Hopefully he just continues on and that’s kind of where our offense starts for us this year.”
Craft will be one of nine starters back for the Eagles. The success of this year’s team will likely depend on how the remaining starting spots fill out.
“The big thing is we’re going to have a lot of kids who finally have their opportunity to play on Friday nights,” Nichols said. “Basically there’s four starters back on defense so there’s seven opportunities there for some kids who have been playing on Saturdays and are going to need to get going. On offense we have five starters back, so there’s a lot of opportunity out there. Kids are going to have to step up and we’re going to have to find some people to keep this thing going.”
The schedule for this year’s Liberty-Benton team looks familiar as the Eagles open again with perennial playoff team Sycamore Mohawk. Understandably, Liberty-Benton is focused on that Week One opponent.
“Week One is big with Mohawk,” Nichols said. “They’ve been in the playoffs now five or six years in a row, so week one for us is humongous. After that, I really don’t know what’s going to play out in our league. Hardin Northern and McComb will probably be there again. Arlington was a junior-dominated team last year so I think they’ll be better. First for us is Mohawk; anything after that we’ll worry about that later.”
Regardless of what players lost from last year’s team, Liberty-Benton will be aiming to keep their playoff streak alive and continue to build a new playoff tradition.
“Our expectations are to just continue what we’ve done and shoot for the league title again, and anything after that is great if you can get that,” Nichols said. “That’ll be our mindset and what we’ll try to preach to the kids also is we’ve kind of set the standard and we’re going stay at that.”
|8/24/2007||@ Sycamore Mohawk||5|
|10/12/2007||@ Van Buren||6|
|10/19/2007||@ Dola Hardin Northern||6|
|10/26/2007||@ Pandora Gilboa||6|