Defiance Tinora returns 18 starters


Tinora Rams

In 1968, a group called the “Super Sophs,” led Ohio State to a national championship. Defiance Tinora didn’t quite get that far in 2007, but the Rams had their own group of Super Sophs – led by a freshman quarterback – that put together an outstanding season. This season, the sophomores are now juniors, and Tinora, with 18 starters returning, is definitely a team to watch.


QB Landon Drewes (6-1, 170, soph.), DT/OT John Hammersmith (6-4, 240, sr.), FB/LB Lucas Willitzer (5-10, 195, sr.), TB/LB Blake Foor (5-10, 190, jr.), WB/CB Lyndon Benecke (6-0, 165, jr.)


2007 record: 9-3, Regional Semifinalist

In 1968, a group of outstanding sophomores, called the “Super Sophs,” led Ohio State to a national championship in football.

Defiance Tinora didn’t quite get that far in 2007, but the Rams had their own group of Super Sophs – led by a freshman quarterback, Landon Drewes – that put together an outstanding season.

“We were an extremely young football team,” head coach Kenny Krouse said. “When you look at Landon being a freshman quarterback but with an incredible amount of talent and to take his first snaps for us coming off another season prior to that where we made the playoffs and won the league. I think we fielded seven or eight sophomores on both sides of the football.”

This season, the sophomores are now juniors, and Tinora, with 18 starters returning, is definitely one of the teams to watch in Region 18.

“We return about everybody on both sides of the ball,” Krouse said. “We only had five seniors. The sophomore class was really, really talented, and then you throw in Landon, who we feel is going to be a pretty special football player. He already is in our eyes, but Division II (colleges) have already taken some peeks at him.”

A freshman starting at quarterback is rare enough in high school football, but Drewes (91-178, 1,372 yards, 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) took over like a natural, guiding the Rams to a 9-3 record and a playoff win.

“He’s just a young man that has a lot of savvy,” Krouse said. “He’s a kid that’s like a sponge. He’s willing to absorb and learn. He just understands, as far as the game, situations as good as anybody I’ve had as far as knowing when to pressure a little bit and knowing when to lay off. He just understands each down, and knowing when to lay off and when he can’t. I think we did a good job of not putting games in his hands, just letting him play.

“As he develops into a better runner, I think we’re going to become a little more balanced. That was probably one area he can improve in. As far as his throwing capabilities, he can continue to improve, but that’s where he’s way ahead. He’s a very accurate thrower, and you can tell by his four interceptions – three of those came in the first two weeks and one on the last play of the game against Liberty-Benton. In that stretch, he really settled down. He just understands when to take a chance and go after something and when to throw the ball away.”

The Rams aren’t completely devoid of question marks, but so many returning starters will mean the team has a lot of strengths.

“I think defensively we’re going to be really solid just because we return so many people,” Krouse said. “Now, we have to replace a special mention All-Ohio linebacker Layne Schroeder, and that will not be an easy task. But we do return our entire secondary, which was prominently all sophomores. We return another All-Ohio linebacker in Lucas Willitzer, and then our whole front five return. We were pretty difficult to run the ball last year, and that’s kind of where we hung our hat in the past is defense is going to win you championships.

“I think on the flip side, we have two big holes as far as our offensive guards, and then Corey Herendeen was a special mention All-Ohio fullback. Those are the areas we’re going to need to improve in. We’re going to need to develop some depth, more on the offensive line than on the defensive side of the football.”

Tinora’s road back to the playoffs won’t be an easy one as the schedule consists of some programs that are no stranger to the postseason.

“We’ve always prided ourselves in playing a really tough non-league schedule,” Krouse said. “Liberty Center’s been on our schedule as long as I can remember, way before I came into the picture. I’m sure everybody in the state knows what quality (head coach Rex Lingruen) does over there. They’re a Division V powerhouse; that speaks for itself. That has been a great measuring stick for us. We upgraded to Delphos St. John’s again; we played them in ’02 in the playoffs in the second round. What Todd Schulte’s been able to do over there, we want to get into that – a little bit of the taste of the MAC, because that’s the best small school conference in Ohio, and again, we want to see where we’re at at the early part of the season.

“Our league has improved getting playoff teams – Fairview, Ayersville, Antwerp, you can go right down the line. Our league has improved over the years because there hasn’t been many turnovers in the coaching ranks. We’re excited about the challenges that lay ahead, and I think we did that on purpose to see where we’re at early on.”

After that, the challenge will be for the Rams to advance even further into the playoffs – not an easy task given the fact they are playing in arguably Division V’s deepest region.

“We’ve been stuck on that Week 11 hump over the past few years, and then to get to Week 12, play on a neutral site and face Liberty-Benton, I think they saw there’s no weaknesses when you get that deep into the playoffs,” Krouse said.. It’s added another spark to our offseason and gotten more people interested.

“That’s been our goal – not just to be a one-hit wonder.”

Overall, the optimism and excitement surrounding the state of the Tinora program is high. The Rams will have plenty of supporters in their quest for continued success.

“Our community and our board of education a couple years ago re-did our entire football stadium and put an all-weather track in, and then in unison, they were able to build a brand new field house equipped with a weight room, home and visitors locker rooms, and training facilities,” Krouse said. “That’s shared by every sport, but we as a football program takes tremendous pride in all these upgrades. And I think the community’s excited about Tinora football.”


10/10 @ HOLGATE

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