South Range has holes to fill but does return some experience

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North Lima South Range Raiders

The South Range Raiders have been nothing less than one of Division V’s true powerhouse teams over the past five seasons. The 2007 campaign was another strong one for South Range, running off 12 straight wins. This year, the Raiders return only five total starters and have some holes to fill, but there will still be a crop of experienced players available to step up.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Jack Dawson (6-2, 195, sr.), G Chris Gauss (6-2, 235, sr.), RB Nick Golec (5-8, 155, jr.), FB Hunter Spitz (5-10, 185, jr.), WR James Nell (5-7, 145, jr.), OLB Jared Razo (5-11, 220, sr.), OL Jon Seaver (6-1, 235, sr.)

SEASON OUTLOOK

The South Range Raiders have been nothing less than one of Division V’s true powerhouse teams over the past five seasons. Since 2003, the Raiders have only lost one regular season game and have won at least two playoff games four out of the past five seasons.

The 2007 campaign was another strong one for South Range, running off 12 straight wins before falling in the regional finals to Youngstown Ursuline.

“Last year was a great season,” head coach Dan Yeagley said. “The kids performed very, very well. We had a great senior leadership group. We had 20 seniors, so this year’s going to be a little tough because we are graduating 20 seniors, but the seniors stepped up. They did what we asked. They were focused on each and every game, they were focused on the non-season, the preseason, the non-league games, the league games, and then afterwards the playoffs.

“They just did a great job. The work ethic was unbelievable. The kids worked really hard and did everything we asked. It was nice seeing some young kids step up and play well, but the seniors performed fabulously. I was just very, very pleased with them.”

This year, the Raiders return only five total starters and have some holes to fill, but there will still be a crop of experienced players available to step up.

“We had opportunities to play a lot of younger kids (last season),” Yeagley said. “We ended up being up in a few games and being able to play some younger kids. We had some injuries throughout the season, so therefore some sophomores and juniors had to step in. Our quarterback’s back, Jack Dawson, who’s a great ball player. He’s coming back on both sides of the ball, which will be a big help. Another big player coming back for us is Chris Gauss, who started at guard. So we have some people here and there who got a lot of playing time and saw some time, and the young kids saw the work ethic of the seniors and saw what it takes to be successful, so I really believe it will carry over to this year – we’re hoping.”

Dawson ranks as one of the top quarterbacks in Division V. His presence will mean a lot to the transition to what will be mostly a new group of starting players.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete, just a great athlete and a great young man, a very smart student in the classroom and a smart kid on the field,” Yeagley said. “He has the ability to run and the ability to throw, which makes him a double-threat and means that people have to defend us a little bit differently and in turn opens up our offense. He is a two-year starter; started for us as a sophomore and started for us last year. As a starting quarterback, he is 24-2, understands winning, understands the leadership role that he has.

“Even as an underclassman, he was still the leader on the field, leader in the huddle, leader in practice. That’s his role by position, but that’s his character also. We’re going to have to do a lot of work to build our offense around him, and I know defensively he’ll perform there too. He’s a great young man, a good thrower and a good runner and can just about do it all. We’re going to have to change our offense a little bit around him to adjust to his talents.”

Dawson, a three-sport star who has been getting some looks from major college football programs as an athlete, will be helped by a solid group of skill position players, which is an area Yeagley feels will be one of the team’s strong points.

“I think that our skill kids are going to be good next year, even though they are going to be young,” Yeagley said. “Jack Dawson at quarterback, we’re looking at Nick Golec at fullback and Hunter Spitz at halfback. Both of them saw some time there. All three of those guys are very talented, quick runners, and I think that’s going to be some of the strengths of our team is the skill kids.”

Outside of the skill positions, however, South Range could have a lot of work to do.

“We only have one offensive lineman returning,” Yeagley said. “We need some kids to really step up early there and play well. Defensively could be the big question. We’re going to really have to work hard in the offseason defensively because we lost everybody. We have a lot of holes to fill there. We’re going to really have to work on discipline. We’re going to have to work on fundamentals and go back to the basics with a lot of these kids. From camp in June and on through July into August, we’re going to have to really concentrate on fundamentals.”

Regardless of the turnover from last year’s team, expectations at South Range remain the same despite a challenging schedule.

“Our expectations are very high here at South Range,” Yeagley said. “We always try to do our very best, and we take one game at a time. Our non-league games that we picked up are going to be really tough. We picked up Massillon Tuslaw Week 1, a Division IV team in the playoffs the past few years. We ended up playing them back in 2004 in the playoffs, so that’s a bit of a rematch there. We have Independence Week 2, which is a good Division V school who we played in the playoffs before, then we picked up Marlington Week 3. So our non-league has picked up a little bit schedule-wise, as did our league.

“Our league is unbelievable, with Columbiana and Crestview, United’s going to be better this year, and Mineral Ridge. Our schedule’s going to be very tough and our kids are just going to have to stay focused every single week, but again, we are going to be young and we’re going to be inexperienced. We’re just going to have to stay focused one week at a time, and hopefully everything falls into place.”

Having only missed the playoffs one time since the turn of the century, South Range has become one of the big names every year in Region 17 and one of the Youngstown area’s top football programs. Yeagley feels fortunate to be part of the tradition.

“South Range is a great place on Friday nights,” he said. “It’s exciting, it’s electrifying, we have an awesome band – our band has 150 people in it. The fans come from all over. You sit down and watch a good football game. Our players just love Friday nights. I got goosebumps just thinking about it because I can’t wait. The fans and the kids just love Friday nights; it’s a packed house every single night. Coaching at South Range has been a blessing for me. The work ethic of the kids, the work ethic of the coaches, I have a phenomenal staff that puts in a lot of time. It is really one of the greatest places to coach. I’m spoiled; I really am because the kids and everybody work hard, the fans are really phenomenal, and I get a lot of support from everybody.”

SCHEDULE

8/22 Massillon Tuslaw

8/29 Independence

9/5 at Alliance Marilngton

9/12 at New Middletown Springfield

9/19 at Lisbon David Anderson

9/26 at Columbiana Crestview

10/3 East Palestine

10/10 at Hanoverton United

10/17 Columbiana

10/24 Mineral Ridge

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