St. Henry added to the rich winning tradition of their football program in 2006 by winning their sixth state championship. This year’s path might be more difficult for the Redskins but the expectations remain high as the team returns plenty of seniors, especially up front.
OL/DL Darren Siefring (6-5, 225, Sr.), WR/DB Cory Puthoff (6-1, 165, Sr.), OG/DL Dave Burkey (6-2, 230, Sr.), OL/DL Marc Tobey (6-2, 220, Sr.)
2006 Record: 14-1; Division V State Champions
With two state championships in the past three years, St. Henry has cemented their place as one of Ohio’s top programs.
After posting a 9-1 regular season mark and slipping into the playoffs as an 8-seed in 2004, the Redskins rolled to their fifth state championship. The following year, however, St. Henry failed to qualify for the playoffs as they fell to a 5-5 mark on the year.
Usually such a season would not indicate a state championship the following season, but the Redskins did just that. Returning almost every starter from the 5-5 team, St. Henry cruised to a 14-1 mark in 2006 and their sixth state championship.
Despite the 5-5 season in 2005, the success of 2006’s team was no surprise.
“With all the returning starters that we had coming back in 2006, I think it was an expectation,” St. Henry head coach Jeff Starkey said. “We don’t talk about winning state championships during the summer or during the spring or during the fall or the course of the season, but I think in the back of everyone’s mind, that’s the expectation when you return so many starters. To really come up so close in 2005 only to fall so short so many times, I think it really motivated our kids in the offseason.”
But while last season’s St. Henry squad boasted a roster filled with experience, 2007’s team may bring something exactly the opposite. St. Henry returns just one starter from last year’s state championship squad.
“As far as full-time starters from day one, there’s probably only one on offense and maybe zero on defense,” Starkey said. “There were some kids who played in our state final because of some injuries that will be coming back and starting full-time this year.”
Starkey admits that things will be different for St. Henry this season, but the Redskins still have a large group of seniors that he expects to perform.
“It’s going to be different,” Starkey said. “There’s no doubt that we’re going to have to win games differently than we did last year, but that’s every year when you turn over your personnel. We’re still going to have 17 or 18 seniors. I’m not sure how many of those kids are actually going to play a lot of offense or a lot of defense, but we’re still going to be a senior-dominated team in a lot of places. So I expect those seniors to step up and have the type of year that our seniors did last year.”
Starkey expects this year’s team to be strong in the trenches, but replacements will need to be found for the players who made things happen at key moments last year.
“Right now, I think that there’s no doubt that one of our team strengths should be our offensive line,” Starkey said. “We should be very senior-dominated there. We have some talented kids who sat and waited behind last year’s group of offensive linemen and they’ve had a very good offseason. I think our offensive line should be one of our strengths as well as our defensive line.
“The things that we’re really going to have to improve on are finding some guys who are going to make some plays. Last year’s team was able to make plays during critical situations during the course of the game, and those guys are all gone. You have to find guys who are going to step up and make plays in those types of situations.”
Regardless of all the departed starters from last year’s team, this is, after all, St. Henry. With such a winning tradition, the standard is always high. But the Redskins are not a team to look ahead to what may happen in the postseason.
“It’s kind of hard to explain but you won’t ever hear us talking about winning a championship during the course of the offseason,” Starkey said. “We don’t try to place those expectations on our football team. We just want them to work as hard as they can and play as hard as they can and play as smart as they can, and a lot of those things will take care of themselves.
“As far as the community goes, I don’t know what the expectations are. I’m sure they’re high; they’re always pretty high. Our kids, they want to play well. They want to have another good year. Our seniors have played on two state championship teams, so ultimately they want to finish well. How we play and what we do from now until August 25th is going to determine how good of a football team we are.”
Starkey said the team is trying to move forward from last season’s title, with the help of getting away from football.
“I think they’re trying to do (move forward),” he explained. “We want our kids to play basketball, we want them to play baseball. We want them to be involved in track. We don’t always play football 365 days a year. That’s why our programs are so successful. But now that the summer’s starting and the spring is winding down, we expect our kids to make a full commitment this summer. Our kids go from sport to sport expecting to have similar success.”
While many defending champions may face the added pressure of having a bigger target on their back, St. Henry plays in a conference that is a home for state champions – the Midwest Athletic Conference. Facing a defending champ is nothing new for the teams in this league.
“When you play in our league, where’s the bulls-eye going to fall in our league?” Starkey said. “Is it going to fall on St. Henry’s? Is it going to fall on Coldwater or Versailles or Marion Local or Delphos St. Johns? There’s a lot of those types of games in our league every year, so I don’t think playing and defending a state championship is really a bulls-eye with our schedule.”
As is the case for any MAC team, St. Henry faces a rugged schedule. The Redskins face traditional power Marion Pleasant in Week 1 for their only non-conference game.
“I know they return an awful lot of kids from last year and that was an excellent football team that they had,” Starkey said of Marion Pleasant. “Then I think going through the MAC, probably Coldwater has the most returning players. They were a very good football team that won the conference last year. Then Marion Local has a good group of returners with their linebackers and quarterback. I think Anna has some good kids – a good mix of some skilled kids and some linemen back, and Delphos St. Johns returns most of their linebackers. So it’s going to be a tough test again. It’s going to be another difficult year in our conference.”
To make things tougher, there won’t be much room for error in order for MAC conference teams to gain a playoff berth in Region 20. With St. Henry, Anna, Versailles, Marion Local, and Rockford Parkway all in the same region, a spot in the postseason would be a major prize.
“You have a number in the back of your mind where you think we need to win this many games or we need to win two out of three – you always have that number in the back of your mind, but at the same time, you try to win them all,” Starkey said. “I think that’s the same for every team.
“Ultimately, I think what’s happened in high school football in the last six or seven years is now that eight teams qualify for a region – I think that’s a pretty smart decision by the OHSAA – but ultimately what that’s done for high school sports is it’s kind of put a league championship behind as far as expectations. A playoff berth is worth more than a league championship ultimately in a lot of different high schools across the state.”
|8/31/2007||Delphos St. John's||6|
|9/7/2007||@ Maria Stein Marion Local||5|
|10/26/2007||@ Fort Recovery||6|