PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Zeb Hawley (5-11, 170, sr.), QB Mike Tyson (6-5, 205, sr.), LB Nate Rogers (5-11, 200, sr.), LB Drew Kamenik (5-9, 170, sr.)
2007 Record: 8-2
Sometimes, in this era of 32 playoff berths per division, it’s easy to forget that there are still quite a few schools out there that have never had a chance to get a taste of the postseason.
One of those schools is Jeromesville Hillsdale, but the Falcons may be close to changing that.
Hillsdale put together a memorable season in 2007, climbing to eight wins and finishing ninth in the Region 18 computer standings.
“We’re pretty excited about what happened last year,” head coach Tom Williams said. “Overall, we played pretty good football week in and week out. Eight wins is a school record for wins in a season, so we were able to accomplish that. We finished 5-2 in the league, and we also we pretty happy with that. Obviously we would have liked to have won another game or two, but hey, we played pretty well overall.”
With ten starters back on offense and nine on defense, this year’s Hillsdale team has created some excitement in the community. But the excitement also results in a new set of expectations that the team may need to get accustomed to.
“I think people expect us to do fairly well, which is a big difference,” Williams said. “I think in the past, people just kind of expected that we wouldn’t be very good year in and year out. Now, there’s people kind of excited and a lot of people saying ‘I can’t wait until next year.’ But that adds a new level of stress or kind of a new atmosphere that we kind of need to get used to.”
Will the Falcons be able to handle the new expectations?
“You never know,” Williams said. “You just kind of have to wait and see. Once you get into the two-a-days and scrimmages and stuff like that, you have a better idea of how the team’s done and what their mindset is because they’re still 15 to 18 year-old kids. There’s a lot of things going on and a lot of distractions, so you kind of almost have to wait until then to know whether they’re focused and ready to take that next step.”
With so many starters back, the team should be able to do plenty of things well, although Williams hopes to see the offense hang on to the football a little better.
“I think offensively we just need to be more consistent and we need to turn the ball over a little less,” Williams said. “Last year we had too many turnovers. We return so many players, and we played a lot of young players on offense last year, so we should be able to run the ball effectively. We should be able to run our play-action pass game well as well.”
The main men on offense will be running back Zeb Hawley, who rushed for 808 yards and 13 touchdowns on 121 carries in 2007, and quarterback Mike Tyson, who passed for 969 yards and 9 touchdowns on 53-of-107 passing.
“He’s very intelligent, knows the offense extremely well,” Williams said of Tyson. “He’s a big kid and strong. Overall last year he just did a solid job, and we’re hoping he’ll have a breakout year this year.”
Even with 19 starters returning, however, Hillsdale’s goals of capturing their first ever league title and postseason berth in a crowded field of competitors will not be easy. Williams feels his team will have to take everything up a notch this year in order to meet their goals.
“Loudonville, our third game, is kind of a rivalry game,” Williams said. “They have a new coach coming in and a new system. He had success when he was at Margaretta, which is where he’s from. As far as the league goes, we feel like Waynedale is going to have a really nice team again, and we feel like pretty much everybody in our league is going to be better than they were this year, so we are going to have to be better to have a chance to have success.”
8/22 @ MAPLETON (ASHLAND)
9/5 @ LOUDONVILLE
9/12 NORWAYNE (CRESTON)
9/19 @ CHIPPEWA (DOYLESTOWN)
10/3 @ SMITHVILLE
10/10 WAYNEDALE (APPLE CREEK)
10/17 NORTHWESTERN (WEST SALEM)
10/24 @ RITTMAN