Rookie head coach Rob Woodward becomes the 15th different coach to lead
the storied Wheelersburg Pirates. He will do so in 2008 with seven
returning starters on the defensive side of the football, and an
offense that contains a potentially dominating ground game.
Rookie head coach Rob Woodward becomes the 15th different coach to lead the storied Wheelersburg Pirates. He will do so in 2008 with seven returning starters on the defensive side of the football, and an offense that contains a potentially dominating ground game. Wheelersburg will play a difficult five weeks in the non-league before entering the very balanced Southern Ohio Conference in hopes of returning to the Division V, Region 19 playoffs – a spot Wheelersburg was in last year advancing to the regional semifinals where the Pirates lost a 41-38 heartbreaker to Fredericktown in overtime.
“The SOC is strong every year and this season will be no different,” said Coach Woodward who will make his head coaching debut at home when the Ironton Tigers visit Ed Miller Stadium in Week 1. “We play a tough non-league schedule that includes several of our nearest rivals and it should go a long way in preparing us for conference play.”
The experienced Wheelersburg defense starts with great play up front and in the linebacking core. Scott Walker and C.J. Adkins anchor a defensive line that should allow the fine Pirate linebackers led by Bryan White and Tyler Craigmiles to roam freely to the football. Wheelersburg is also very athletic in the defensive backfield with Aaron Hopper at free safety and Jordan Shankweiler returning at cornerback.
“It is nice having the experience back on defense,” said Woodward who is familiar with the Pirate defense as he served as the defensive coordinator last season under former head coach Tony Lewis. “We return seven starters on that side of the ball, and hopefully that experience along with some solid special teams play will help us consistently win the battle of field position.”
With the great arm of Drew Spradlin lost to graduation, under center will now belong to Tyler Lang. Lang, who is also a part of that fine Wheelersburg secondary on the defensive side of the ball, did get some quarterbacking experience a year ago in some short-yardage situations. In fact, Lang scored three times from the quarterback spot in last year’s key, Week 9 win over Waverly that helped lift Wheelersburg to its 27th conference title in school history. Lang does have the ability to attack defenses through the air; however, his speed and elusiveness will complement the great backs of Wheelersburg making the Pirates ground game very dangerous.
Craigmiles, Walker, and White will join Lang in the backfield to give the Pirates great depth in the running game. They will be running behind a line anchored by returning center Zach Frowine as well as the tight end Hopper.
“Like any offense we want to mix it up and be as balanced as possible,” said Coach Woodward. “With that said, we will be a run-oriented team. We will run a lot of the same sets that we have run in the past and hopefully be able to get a lot of guys involved in the offense.”
The biggest competition for the Pirates entering this season continues to be in the kicking game. The ‘Burg has some solid athletes, but they are still unsure who will handle the place-kicking duties. One certainty in the special teams will come at punter where Lang returns.
Obviously, expectations at a place that has 20 playoff appearances, five regional titles, and a 1989 state title are always going to be high, but if Wheelersburg’s running game reaches its potential to complement a very experienced defense then 2008 could very easily be the next successful chapter in this incredible gridiron program.